Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Band's Visit and Bright Colors and Bold Patterns

Keith Baxter and Michael Urie
Photo by Scott Suchman
Audiences who missed Michael Urie's electric performance as Hamlet last year at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington now have another chance. Hamlet is the 29th annual production in the company's Free for All program, with free tickets for performances through July 21 available both online and in person.

Craig Baldwin has recreated Michael Kahn's original direction, which brings William Shakespeare's tragedy into a contemporary setting powered by suspicion and surveillance. John Coyne's scenic design turns the Danish palace at Elsinore into a world of severe metal walls and security cameras, where Secret Service-like guards inspect visitors and the ghost of Hamlet's father (Keith Baxter) appears on closed-circuit television monitors.

Bristling intelligence is the core of Urie's portrayal: Hamlet's eyes seem to glow as he tries to take in his father's death, his mother's marriage to his father's brother, and his uncle succeeding his father as king of Denmark. While he's cerebral to the point of living inside his own head, he's also demonstrative when he needs to be, open and genuine with his friend Horatio (Federico Rodriguez) and thrilled to greet the company of traveling actors. (Baxter, a matchless actor and director with six decades of credits, appears as the Player King and the garrulous Gravedigger as well as the Ghost.)

Ayana Workman plays Ophelia as an innocent teenager, trading texts with Hamlet but unaware of the darker currents surrounding her. (She's horrified that anyone might think her bond with Hamlet is sexual.) This fragility may foreshadow her later collapse, but it also brings out the underside of Hamlet's anguish as he targets her.

Robert Joy plays Polonius as outwardly avuncular but as manipulative as the guilt-ridden Claudius (Alan Cox). Not only does this Polonius do what the kingdom asks of him, he spies on his own children, sending a spy to shadow Laertes (Paul Deo Jr.) in Paris or electronically eavesdropping on Ophelia and Hamlet. Cox has the sleek exterior of a politician, and Madeleine Potter is both elegant and despairing as Gertrude.

Jess Goldstein's costume designs bring color to the grim monochrome settings, notably Potter's gowns and the 1940s-style traveling outfits for the players.

Shakespeare Theatre Company-Free for All
July 10th - 21st, 2019
By William Shakespeare
Hamlet, prince of Denmark: Michael Urie
Claudius, king of Denmark, Hamlet's uncle: Alan Cox
Gertrude, queen of Denmark, Hamlet's mother: Madeleine Potter
Ghost of Hamlet's father, former king of Denmark: Keith Baxter
Polonius, counselor to the king: Robert Joy
Ophelia, Polonius' daughter: Ayana Workman
Laertes, Polonius' son: Paul Deo Jr.
Horatio, Hamlet's friend and fellow student: Federico Rodriguez
Rosencrantz, former schoolfellow of Hamlet: Tim Nicolai
Guildenstern, former schoolfellow of Hamlet: Kelsey Rainwater
Voltemand, ambassador to Norway: David Bryan Jackson
Cornelia, ambassador to Norway: Lise Bruneau
Player King: Keith Baxter
Player Queen: Lise Bruneau
Lucianus: Chris Genebach
Prologue: Krystel Lucas
Osric, in the employ of Claudius: Gregory Wooddell
Reynaldo, in the employ of Polonius: Michael Haller
Marcella, security guard: Krystel Lucas
Barnardo, security guard: Chris Genebach
Francisco, security guard: Omar D. Cruz
Gravedigger: Keith Baxter
Priest: David Bryan Jackson
Fortinbras, prince of Norway: Krystel Lucas
Ensemble: Grace Brockway, Omar D. Cruz, Michael Haller, Megan Huynh, Joe Mucciolo, Keanu Ross-Cabrera, Jeff Allen Young
Directed by Craig Baldwin
Original direction by Michael Kahn
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or