And let me speak to th' yet unknowing world
How these things came about. So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall'n on th' inventors' heads. . . .
Hamlet, Act V, Scene IIMany people attend a play to escape the cares and problems of the world, if only for a few short hours.
But sometimes, as is evident in Brigham Young University's production of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," we discover we haven't escaped. Instead we may see more of ourselves and the world on the stage than we might have ever expected or wanted - and we learn.
Hamlet's friend Horatio speaks the words above in response to Hamlet's death, but how appropriate they seem, to activists and pacifists alike, in relation to recent international events.
BYU's staging of "Hamlet" reminds us that Shakespeare wrote tragedies as well as comedies, because life is full of both.
Actor Jason Rasmussen brings Hamlet to life by emphasizing the prince of Denmark's struggle to fulfill a promise he made to his murdered father's ghost. The promise was to seek vengeance against his uncle, who murdered Hamlet's father to wed Hamlet's mother. Hamlet must decide how and when to kill his uncle, or if that is really the answer at all.
Director Michael Murdock said, "We shall be emphasizing the Christian aspects found in `Hamlet' and demonstrate good and evil in that context."
The evil is obvious, but the good is subtle and best seen in Hamlet's soliloquies, especially when he is questioning his motives and drive, which Rasmussen delivers smoothly.
Rasmussen is passionate and alive on stage, believable in presenting both Hamlet's sanity and insanity.
Madness is a forte of BYU's production.
The insanity of Cathleen Campbell's Ophelia is intense and beautiful. The audience is rapt, trying to pick up the Shakespearean subtleties in her songs to somehow discover a reason for Ophelia's madness.
Strong also is Tayva Patch as Queen Gertrude, who ever so gradually loses her regality as Hamlet helps drive the part she played in her husband's death to the center of her heart.
BYU theater professors Ivan Crosland and Lael Woodbury make brief but important appearances, proving that some people can still practice what they preach.
W.T. Badgett as Horatio, Merlin J. Bowen as Polonius and S. Bryce Chamberlain as King Claudius were also wonderful in the opening night production.
The supporting cast of Peter Brown as Rosencrantz, Ryan C. Benson as Guildenstern and Jonny Kigin, Monte Garcia, Vance Checketts, Heather Kay Christensen, Lisa Day, Meredith Higbee and Alicen Perry as the players were also good.
Charles Henson's set is appropriate and beautiful. The smooth scene changes on the moving stage do not detract from the production.
If one could make two small suggestions, they would only be that the background music is sometimes not so much in the background, and a few lines are lost to the intensity of the voices in screaming or crying.
But those are not reasons to miss BYU's "Hamlet." Shakespeare's play is an incredible reflection on life, and all who attend this production will surely find at least one line they can relate to, or one phrase that touches them.