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Acting Up Productions' outdoor Hamlet 

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click to enlarge R. Brian Noffke rehearses the cast of Hamlet at Clowes Amphitheatre. - ROY CHAMBERLIN
  • R. Brian Noffke rehearses the cast of Hamlet at Clowes Amphitheatre.
  • Roy Chamberlin

Lauren Briggeman’s Hamlet, under the direction of Acting Up Productions' R. Brian Noffke, is someone to fall in love with. She is beautiful, brave, a tad crazy, maybe, but definitely fully human. Like many of us, she is impatient with politics and love. Unlike many of us, she is equally comfortable using guns, rapiers, words, or crotch grabs to get what she wants.

There are other interesting aspects to this unusual production of Shakespeare’s play — more about them in a moment — but Briggeman is the reason to put a lawn chair in your car and drive out to the amphitheater at Marian University even if you don’t usually go out for Shakespeare. Briggeman as Hamlet is stunning.

The rest of the cast supports her well, bringing fresh (yes, fresh, even after all these years) and nicely nuanced interpretations to Shakespeare’s characters and story. There is a lovely attention to detail in the staging, too, even though it appears very simple at first glance.

Noffke’s adaptation keeps the pleasures of Shakespeare’s language but makes “Denmark” a kind of Washington, D.C., with secret service agents discovering The Ghost and a clearer delineation between the group of traveling actors that comes to perform a period piece at the castle/White House and the elite but contemporary world of everyone else.

The stage itself — the intimate yet wide open amphitheater — adds another layer to this appealing juxtaposition of times and places. We are in the American present, hearing Shakespearean English, in a space that echoes back to ancient Rome, under a gorgeous sky. The overall effect is one of timeless significance.

I gave this four stars instead of five because Hamlet’s microphone and a few others kept malfunctioning on the night I was there. It was especially disappointing to lose the famous “To be or not to be” line to the wind. However, unlike at an outdoor Shakespeare event in a huge space where you might be sitting hundreds of yards away from the stage, in this intimate amphitheater when the microphones fade out for a moment, you can still hear what is being said.

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