The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is celebrating its quarter-century anniversary—25 years of bringing authentic Shakespeare plays with artistic, innovative twists to our cozy Hudson Valley. Each year, the Festival chooses a comedy, a tragedy, and one ‘wild card’ to perform under an enormous tent on the grounds of the beautiful, historic Boscobel estate, overlooking the Hudson River. This year, the plays were Hamlet, Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare’s longest and shortest plays, respectively), and for a change of pace, a play adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days.
On June 15th, I went to see Hamlet with my family. This was the first time in their 25 years that the HVSF had tackled what many consider Shakespeare’s greatest play, and as director Terrence O’Brien noted in the playbill, “everyone, audience and artists alike, has opinions, expectations, and ideas as to what is the right away to do the play.”
So how did this theater company fare against one of literature’s greatest challenges? Hamlet was brilliant. Modern dress was just about the only thing they changed – no one went overboard to try to make Hamlet ‘accessible’ in any other way than doing a fantastic job with acting. The actor playing Hamlet (Matthew Amendt, who some may remember as Troilus from last season) did a wonderful job of injecting sarcasm into some lines, passion into others, and maintaining the undercurrent of world-weariness for which Hamlet is so famous. Other characters, like the egregious King Claudius and nonsense-spewing Polonius, did equally commendable jobs. Between scenes, heavy metal music was played, which complimented the theme of the play surprisingly well. From powerful acting to a strong reliance on the script and not flashy sets or props, HVSF’s Hamlet was excellently done.
HVSF’s season runs from June 14th to September 4th, so there is still plenty of time to enjoy one of these unforgettable productions. My whole family agrees: our summer just isn’t complete without a trip to the Festival.