Hamlet – Old Globe Theatre

Arguably the most performed play of all time, Hamlet continues to perplex directors, challenge actors and invigorate audiences. The production at San Diego’s Old Globe does not disappoint, and lives up to its centuries-long notoriety.

With three different versions handed down through history and an original running time of four hours, directors have struggled how to trim the Bard’s work. The program notes include a quotation from Kevin Kline, one of our generation’s great Shakespearean actors, “In Shakespeare, every cut bleeds.”

In San Diego, director Barry Edelstein has mounted a fine production that sails in at about three hours. But most in the audience were not watching the clock, the production is smooth and fascinating.

The open air stage is an ideal setting, the waning light of day slowly gives way to the darkness in the mind of the titular character. The stage set is fairly simple, with effective use of wheeled elements to shift the play’s settings from a castle parapet to the king’s bedroom, among other locales.

The cast of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, directed by Barry Edelstein, running August 6 – September 10, 2017. Photo by Jim Cox.

Grantham Coleman is remarkable in the lead role. He exudes the terror confronting Hamlet when the ghost of his father (the very effective Michael Genet) appears, and then expresses well his consternation in several key moments of soliloquy.

Also notable in the cast are Cornell Womack as King Claudius and Ian Lassiter as Horatio. I was initially unsure about Patrick Kerr’s assay of Polonius, but soon he won me over.

Grantham Coleman in the title role of Hamlet. Photo by Jim Cox.

(from left) Grantham Coleman as Hamlet Patrick Kerr as Polonius, Kevin Hafso-Koppman as Rosencrantz, and Nora Carroll as Guildenstern in Hamlet. Photo by Jim Cox.

Edelstein notes that the various versions of Hamlet differ in the degree to which Gertrude knows that her new husband murdered her first husband. Favoring the earliest text, here Gertrude is unaware. Opal Alladin plays the role of Queen Gertrude quite well.

Two musicians (Chaz Cabrera and Gabriel Wolf) add layers of sonic intrigue at key moments.

Mention must also be made of the luxurious costumes, created by Cait O’Connor. Royalty is dressed in colorful finery, and the ghost is replete with haunting, self-contained lighting.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.