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A 'Hamlet' Not Half Bad

But Cut From 5 to 2 1/2 Hours, Staging Panders Too Much to Title Role


COSTA MESA — Without a doubt, the most important ingredient in any production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is the tragic Prince himself. Without a worthy Hamlet, the spine of the play is in danger.

In his fairly standard staging of the play at Orange Coast College's Robert B. Moore Theatre, director Alex Golson has an individual and inventive Hamlet in Peter Uribe, a fiery, volatile young prince driven in heated passion for revenge.

Uribe is not a thoughtful Hamlet; he is a stick of dynamite with a glowing fuse. On those occasions when he does retreat into himself, the transitions are believable, and there is a rewarding humorous twinkle beneath his dedication to sure doom.

It's odd that so many people through the centuries have felt compelled to rewrite Shakespeare's plays, particularly this one.

In this case, OCC's John B. Ferzacca has done the surgery, eliminating as much material as possible that does not deal directly with the Prince. He has cut the five-hour play to 2 1/2 hours and deleted much color and a good bit of depth. He crosscuts scenes that originally play separately, as in a movie.

None of this damages Shakespeare, but the make-over is gratuitous.

Although it gives Uribe a constant spotlight, the adaptation belittles some of Hamlet's psychological roots. The role of his widowed mother, Gertrude, who has quickly married her brother-in-law, seems a walk-on, especially with Dolores Fitzpatrick's tendency to rattle off her lines.

As her husband and Hamlet's uncle, King Claudius, the forceful George Almond fares better, especially within Ferzacca's idea of highlighting the conflict between him and Hamlet.

Eric Hamme is good as a stalwart Horatio, concerned and empathetic, and Amanda Helene Diaz is effective as the truncated Ophelia. With most of Polonius' rambling befuddlement gone, Damon Hill does little more than recite.

Timothy C. Todd, a strong Laertes, is on surer footing with Shakespeare's language in the moments remaining to him. Tamara Hoffman is funny as the Gravedigger, rising above the illogical casting. Most of the rest of the supporting cast seems lost in the words.

David Scaglione's scenic design is workable, a mottled gray construction with many steps and metal piping for handrails, but Brenda Wyatt's odd costume design looks like something thrown together for one of Republic Pictures' 1940s science-fiction serials. One result is an impression, in the silly casting of imberly Fisher and Hilary Hesse as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, that the Prince is attending a coed rocket-flight school.

* "Hamlet," Robert B. Moore Theatre, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $8-$9. (714) 432-5880. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Peter Uribe: Hamlet

Eric Hamme: Horatio

George Almond: Claudius

Dolores Fitzpatrick: Gertrude

Timothy C. Todd: Laertes

Damon Hill: Polonius

Amanda Helene Diaz: Ophelia

Kimberly Fisher: Rosencrantz

Hilary Hesse: Guildenstern

Tamara Hoffman: Gravedigger

An Orange Coast College Theatre Arts Department production of Shakespeare's tragedy, in an adaptation by John B. Ferzacca. Directed by Alex Golson. Scenic design: David Scaglione. Lighting design: D.P. Vining. Sound design: Rick Golson. Costume design: Brenda Wyatt. Production stage manager: Jody J. Marler.

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