Spiritual Hamlet

hamlet with ghost
Grantham Coleman as Hamlet and Michael Genet as The Ghost in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, directed by Barry Edelstein, running Aug. 6 – Sept. 22, 2017. Photo by Jim Cox.

A giant gold suit of armor guards The Old Globe’s stage in a spiritual Hamlet.

The most compelling scene is between Hamlet and his father as The Ghost. Michael Genet strides through the mist on a golden platform in an ether, LED-lit suit of armor toward Grantham Coleman as Hamlet. In slow motion, the stairs and landing spin around as a ghostly Genet chases a shocked Coleman.

There isn’t a lot of time to get to this pivotal moment. The play in full-length is four hours. The Old Globe has cut it to a well-paced three hours. And yet Genet and Coleman are captivating. The father and son moment brings the audience closer to God.

When Genet as the father says he has been killed and attacked by a snake in the garden a Biblical reference comes to mind. In this case, the snake is the uncle, King Claudius, played by Cornell Womack. The father represents God the Father. Genet then says his bride, the seeming-virtuous Queen, has been taken from him. Another Biblical reference comes to mind, as God’s people are the unfaithful Bride. The Father is God, Hamlet is Christ, the Bride is God’s people, and the murderous, usurping king is the serpent. Hamlet must save the Bride or free her from Evil.

Quite possibly Shakespeare was inspired by pre-Christian history of Danish Prince Horvendile married to Queen Geruth, who had a son named Hamlet. Prince Horvendile was murdered by his brother Fengon. The true story is more gruesome and detailed than the play. Shakespeare then intertwined the Danish royals’ story with a bent on Biblical stories.

The Tudor costumes are inspired by Queen Elizabeth I and her ruff collars. The stunning Opal Alladin as Queen Gertrude wears the opulent gowns well. An anonymous donor sponsors costume designer Cait O’Connor. The costumes are the first enticement to the show.

Scenic Designer, Tim Mackabee, creates a world of lavish industrialism. It’s like he brings a little bit of Broadway with him. He uses metal pipes, elbows, and maybe particleboard to create two stories of stairs, rails, and walls. By spray-painting them gold, the props complement the over-the-top costumes.

hamlet sword fight
Jonny Orsini as Laertes duels Grantham Coleman as Hamlet. Cornell Womack as King Claudius and Opal Alladin as Queen Gertrude sit surrounded by cast in background. Photo by Jim Cox.

Director Barry Edelstein’s Hamlet is the best version you’ll find in SoCal keeping true to a more self-preserving Hamlet rather than a madman.

Balboa Park is getting busier every year. I would suggest eating at the 2014 Zagat awarded and one of four top Japanese restaurants in San Diego, Azuki Sushi. The sushi is the moistest I’ve tasted. The miso soup is salty with generous amounts of seaweed and tofu. The Shiitake roll is marked as vegetarian with a piece of shitake on top treated like bacon and tender asparagus in the middle. The avocado and cucumber roll is narrow the way it should be. Make a reservation for this seemingly hole-in-the-wall.

Park free on the street or in the five dollar parking lots near the restaurant then walk on Laurel Street to The Old Globe in Balboa Park. Cross Sixth Street and saunter the Cabrillo Bridge. You might be able to wear heels since this is a flat route. The Old Globe does offer valet parking for $14. But if you don’t want to deal with traffic in the park then the walk along the bridge is enjoyable. It’s been hot and humid this week. (The rest of the summer has been the coolest we’ve had in SoCal.) Since this is San Diego I did see a woman dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. I wouldn’t go that far, but do dress comfortably.

(Welcome Texas. We are seeing lots of Texas license plates due to the flooding there.)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare directed by Barry Edelstein runs August 6 – September 22, 2017 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.

The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Box Office (619) 234-5623.

Copyright 2017