Denise Devin deftly directs a fast-paced intermission-less HAMLET with authority and skill at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre; a risk that pays off handsomely as the production explores one man's psychological descent into evil. Rafael Goldstein takes on the role of the Danish Prince in a performance that pulsates with such palpable intensity that when he says, "now could I drink hot blood /and do such bitter business, as the day /would quake to look on," we do not doubt for a moment that he is capable of unspeakable acts.
ZJ's intimate black box becomes the perfect contained chamber within which to examine Hamlet's mutation of the mind and Jennifer Holloway's lighting is quite literally all that separates the actors from the audience, mere inches away. Yes, there's action. People argue. People die. But watching Goldstein's face all but tremble in its stillness as a thousand thoughts flicker behind his eyes is one of the most intoxicating elements of this production and the reason you should make haste to see him in his first HAMLET.
Another is Maya Erskine's arresting portrayal of the doomed Ophelia passing out twigs as flowers in her mad scene. The disheveled 'little girl lost' wanders about swathed in a broken shell of skewed sensuality, her inner light already withdrawn from reality even before the weeping brook claims her. Vanessa Cate's loyal Marcellus and Jonica Patella's knavish Player King are also solid but a number of other cast members lack diction and a secure command of the language. Still, they drive to the climax of this provocative tale of revenge with energy. Original music by Michael Maio effectively underscores the increasing tension throughout.
Fridays (8:30 pm) and Sundays (7pm) through August 12
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre
4850 Lankershin Blvd., N. Hollywood
Rafael Goldstein - Hamlet
Maya Erskine - Ophelia
Sarah Fairfax - Gertrude
Vsev - Claudius
Frank Leone - Laertes
Philip Rodriguez - Horatio
Leif La Duke - Polonius
Jonica Patella – The Ghost, Player King, Gravedigger
Vanessa Cate – Marcellus, Player Queen, Priest, Servant
John Hope – Bernardo, Voltemand, Lucianus, Osric, Sailor
Sean Spencer – Rosencrantz, Ghost
Natalie Winters – Guildenstern
Pictured: Rafael Goldstein as Hamlet and Vsev as Claudius in HAMLET. Photo by Zombie Joe.
For more Los Angeles Shakespeare news follow @ShakespeareinLA on Twitter.