Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 20, 2015

A Day in Lenox. . .

. . .as A Theatre Novice Tackles a Shakespeare duo of Berkshire treats: Shakespeare & Company at the Mount
by Janice Webb

It was FABULOUS! My friend Pam and I had such a delightful day.

Does a torrential rainstorm stop the outdoor production of Shakespeare's"Hamlet"? Never.

Photo by David Dash
While interrupting Ophelia's speech, a short time afterward, the play went on. Somehow, the affect of nature made this theatre experience even more magical. Everyone (audience and actors) ran for cover in the Stables at the top of the field at the Mount. The actors took that opportunity, soaking wet, to introduce themselves; i.e. where they were from, what they had done, etc. Very intimate, very special, everyone dripping wet.

Pam and I arrived at the Mount about 10am, viewed the new and massive sculpture exhibit disbursed throughout the grounds, enjoyed the play, took the garden tour, had lunch with champagne on the Mount porch, did the house tour, had coffee and dessert and left about 5:30pm with a stop at the Outlets. A very special day.

So, my review of "Hamlet" from a novice's point of view. I'm telling the ending, a "no, no" in reviews, but I figure, it's "Hamlet," it's expected.

As I watched the body count pile up on the "Hamlet" stage, I thought back to this morning when I asked my son, the recent college graduate,  "What's the play about? " He said, I think someone dies and there is a skull speech. Oh boy, he got that right. 

Photo by Elizabeth Aspenlieder
Shakespeare is not something I quote often, but it a good deal came back to me with familiarity. The "To be or not to be" speech, the "Alas, Poor Yorick" skull speech, and the " What a piece of work is man"  speech that I always loved because the musical "Hair" put it to song. But, this was more than familiar words, this was alive, entertaining, intriguing. To see the play was worlds better than reading the play in Freshman English class. Shakespeare & Company actors revved up the story with energy and excitement, brought to life by very talented actors. These thespians' passion for the play was matched by their ability to make it understandable and enjoyable. The expressions, gestures, interaction made a dead language alive again. The actors were the catalyst changing something from black and white text to Technicolor reality.

Condensing the play to 90 minutes instead of four hours makes the experience even better. The characters are developed and defined early, the story line easier to follow. Some of the actors take on two or three roles, and are amazingly able to infuse each character with individuality. Luke Reed is magnificent as the lead, and Greg Boover a joy to watch as both Polonius and Horatio. 

The rolling hills and glens were backdrops of beauty, lending to the sparse stage. The costumes stood out rich and magnificent in the simple setting. Thunder rolled ominously through the open-aired theatre each time the King Ghost appeared, but this was not a sound effect, this was real. The timing was perfect, but the result was a downpour onto the actors holding true to character. The production was actually magnificent to watch, that is, until lighting appeared.

I wish everyone would see Shakespeare this vibrant and this alive so that they could truly appreciate the work.

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
The Mount, Lenox, MA