Directed by Lavina Jadhwani
At Oak Park Festival Theatre
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
“And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”
“Conscience doth make cowards of us all.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Worthy outdoor production of Hamlet is a summer treat.
Now it their 40th season, Oak Park Festival Theatre continues to offer fineEquity based classical theatre. they specialize in Shakespeare but they also mount other classics like their upcoming of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.
Their Hamlet, now playing in scenic Oak Park, is set in 1920’s gangster-ridden Chicago wherein Claudius (Jack Hickey) is not king but the mob boss. Wide-label three-piece stripped suits complete with shoulder gun holsters and fedora hats dominate here. The mob rules . This tragedy is based on the torment of nephew Hamlet (Michael McKeogh) who is still mourning the death of his father killed by his brother Claudius in order to rule the mob. Claudius also took Hamlet’s other, Gertrude (Kelly Lynn Hogan) as his wife.
Hamlet’s torment is fueled by his visions of the Ghost of Hamlet’s father (Will Clinger). We see Hamlet’s angst as he conveys insanity to everyone. Is that really Hamlet or a ploy as he plots revenge against Claudius? Filled with known dialogue, including “To be, or not to be: that is the question:….,” we meet the troubled young man as he struggles with thoughts of evil.
As played by Michael McKeogh, Hamlet is a manically nervous soul who appears to be deliciously insane yet he still has enough charm and charisma and playfulness to be sane. McKeogh’s performance is terrific and just short of brilliant. Once he stops constant physical movement and, at times, goes from mumbling to speaking too fast, his Hamlet will emerge as one of the finest seen on stage in Chicago. I’m sure he’ll relax into the role as the run continues.
Other performances that impressed me came from Sara Pavlak ,who reached down deep to present the rage and emotion from Ophelia, Hamlet’s wife and Polonius’ daughter, was outstanding in her tormented scene.
The dedicated cast included nice work from jack Hickey (Claudius), Michael Joseph Mitchell (Polonius) and Will Clinger. This production of one of the most beloved works of theatre is worthy of an audience. So, bring you picnic basket filled with summer treats and spend an evening under the stars watching an entertaining production of The Bard’s best play – Hamlet.
At Austin Gardens, 167 Forest Ave., Oak park, IL,call 708-445-4440, www.oakparkfestival.com, tickets $27, seniors $22, students $15, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, Wednesdays at 8 pm on July 2 & 16, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.