The Globe’s “road” Hamlet is a stripped-down, rapid-fire production, and it highlights the company’s remarkable facility with on-the-spot blocking and improvisation. With just a handful of simple props, including lengths of timber and two-sided step stools, the Globe touring company took over Campbell Hall last Thursday, November 8, and achieved a very reasonable approximation of the Elizabethan stage experience. In what began as a close-fought battle between poetry and theatrics, theatrics prevailed, and in the process, the overall impact of what could have otherwise been a very satisfying night in the theater was diminished. Dickon Tyrrell made an outstanding Claudius, speaking the verse with clarity and conviction. But Michael Benz, who brought vigor to his portrayal of Hamlet, had his delivery of several of the crucial soliloquies rushed, seemingly in order to keep pace with the breakneck speed of the entire production, especially in the second half.
Some of the blocking was terrifically effective — the hyper-stylized and rhythmic stop-motion dumb show during the The Mousetrap, for example, brought down the house. But at other times the frenzied movement appeared gratuitous, as in the distracting, restless behavior of Carlyss Peer as Ophelia during her mad scene. The chief strength of the production was its remarkable clarity. The closet scene between Hamlet and Gertrude, while not perfectly spoken, was nevertheless staged to render the underlying emotions completely legible. As in many productions of Hamlet, Polonius (Christopher Saul) got the biggest laughs and contributed to the overall effect of having been transported to the rowdy pit where the groundlings of the Elizabethan era lived with great art as their bawdy entertainment.