Secret Theatre’s ‘Hamlet’ clean and timeless
by Willow Belden, qboro Editor
The minor characters steal the show in the Queens Players’ production of “Hamlet,” which opened at the Secret Theatre in Long
Island City last weekend.
From the comic grave-digger, who saucily shoes Hamlet away from her grave and squeals with gleeful delight at unearthing a skull, to
the dead-pan lord Polonius, who drones on endlessly even as he declares that “brevity is the soul of wit,” to the headstrong Laertes,
who entreats his sister to be a good girl while himself waltzing off to a life of pleasure in France, the supporting characters pump life and
energy into the production and draw repeated laughs from the audience.
The production is solid, albeit a bit too long. After a slow and slightly stiff start, the pace picks up, the show gains intensity and the
acting becomes more sincere.
Kirk Gostkowski skillfully depicts a Hamlet who is sullen, moody and intent on avenging his father’s murder. Tony Scheinman is
competent though slightly predictable and monochromatic as the arrogant, usurping king, Claudius. And Alyssa Van Gorder portrays a
reluctantly obedient Ophelia with a down-to-earth tone that brings her potentially china-doll-like character to life.
In an interesting conceptual decision, director Rich Ferraioli cast Hamlet’s friend Horatio as a woman and turned their friendship into
something of a romantic attachment.
Shelleen Kostabi’s portrayal of Horatio is commendable, and her sexual liason with the prince doesn’t detract from the story, although
it is perplexing that Hamlet still refers to his friend as a man.
From a design standpoint, the production comes off well, despite frequent glitches in the sound cues.
R. Allen Babcock’s set, which involves a series of abstract, tortured paintings in shades of black and gray, shadows the tragedy’s dark
storyline. A circular symbol on the floor with a stylized eye in the center seems to add a touch of Pagan-like imagery.
Giant glass-fronted drawers, filled with water and soil respectively, slide open to become the river and the tomb, allowing for fresh,
dramatic staging of key scenes in the second act.
The costumes are simple and to the point — contemporary without screaming 2009 — slacks and shirts in shades of black, gray and
khaki. Splashes of color enter into the equation with a red sash worn by the ghost of Hamlet’s father, and fittingly gaudy blue garments
sported by the king and queen. Only Ophelia’s floor-length white dress seems inappropriately old-fashioned and at odds with the other
This production may not be saying anything particularly new about the play, but it does offer up a clean and readily understandable
rendition of Shakespeare’s hallowed tragedy.
When: Wed. - Sun. at 8 p.m. Through May 2. Saturday matinee at 4 p.m. on April 25.
Where: The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd St., Long Island City
Tickets are $15.
LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Hamlet (Kirk Gostkowski) tells Ophelia (Alyssa Van Gorder), “Get thee to a nunnery” in the
Secret Theatre’s production. (photo courtesy of the Secret Theatre)
By Willow Belden