Midsommer Flight Presents HAMLET Review – Refreshing Take On A Rotten State

Midsommer Flight HAMLET
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Samual Cheeseman as Hamlet and Bianca Phipps as Ophelia Photo: Zack Whittington

A Hamlet For All

Does the classic Shakespeare tale describing the existential demise of a young prince and his dysfunctional royal family oblivious to their heinous discretions sound eerily relevant to today’s headlines?

Midsommer Flight’s Hamlet – with melodious language and music – manages to upstage our current political landscape to evoke a sense of the absurd. Shakespeare did it long before there was a Twitter!

Newcomers and veterans of Shakespearean drama will find an engaging look into life as it falls down all around the young prince and the state of Denmark rotting in real time. Performed in Lincoln Park and other Chicago parks throughout July and August, the Midsommer Flight’s actors are without amplification surrounded by a few props and the shade of the surrounding trees. But, the real star in this production is the wonderful art of diction, with actors who give themselves enthusiastically to the poetry of Shakespeare.

The Ultimate Bargain

It goes without saying, this FREE production is a gift from a professional not-for-profit theater company of this caliber. Those who enjoy stretching out on a lawn, barefoot, with blanket and suitably supplied with drinks and nibbles of choice will enjoy this comfortable approach to Shakespeare. With the audience arranged in a three quarter’s pie shape around the stage, actors are up close and personal as they make their entrance or deliver lines approaching center stage.

 

Midsommer Flight HAMLET
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Laertes played by Joe Sergio fights Hamlet played by Samual Cheeseman Photo: Zack Whittington

An Ensemble At Play With Tragedy

Directed by Beth Wolf, this troupe adroitly plays with traditional language adding a twist of modernity. Samual Cheeseman as Hamlet nuances hyperbolic anger and comic sarcasm with ease. His strong voice packs a punch never lost in open air. Ophelia’s tenuous grip on sanity is played with heartbreaking vulnerability by Bianca Phipps. All enthusiasm and naiveté, Phipps descends adeptly into the ethereal, tortured lovelorn waif.

Ushering in Hamlet’s famed soliloquy are the duo gravediggers, played by Adam Habben and Emily Renee Shimsky who tease and cajole with abandon. There is no better fool than Habben who incites a giggle with a raised eyebrow, the roll of his eyes and arms akimbo. Shimsky has a melodius voice and a fanciful way with a jig – inviting the audience into her shenanigans.

Gertrude, played by Morayo Orija stands out for her feigned and regal nonchalance in the face of her husband’s recent death and hasty marriage to her brother-in-law, Claudius. Orija unravels convincingly, confronted repeatedly by her agonized son. Stephen Fedo as Polonius is a standout as well, at once conniving to curry favor with the new king while holding his unraveled daughter together.

Hamlet, The Soundtrack

Original music by Elizabeth Rentfro and Erick Rivera complements the tragic moments and somber moods with haunting vocals, a bass saxophone, an electric guitar with a portable amplifier, percussive instruments and ukulele. Like the presence of an actor with a very large range, the musicians evoke the emotion that befits both tragedy and the absurd while never overpowering the actor’s lines. Program notes promise the performance music will be available online later this summer at www.midsommerflight.com/listen.

 

Midsommer Flight HAMLET
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Horatio played by Ian Michael Minh holding Hamlet played by Samual Cheeseman Photo: Zack Whittington

Highly Recommended

Midsommer Flight’s Hamlet is at once a cautionary tale that deftly manages to remain upbeat. Don’t do this and you’ll do well in life is the take away rather than darkness and angst. Midsommer Flight will present Hamlet in four outdoor locations, Touhy Park, Schreiber Park, Gross Park and Lincoln Park. There is no better way to spend a weekend summer evening.

Midsommer Flight HAMLET
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Gertrude played by Morayo Orija, Claudius played by Jared Dennis, Laertes played by Joe Sergio and Ophelia played by Bianca Phipps PHOTO: Tom McGrath TCMcG Photography
Midsommer Flight HAMLET
(LEFT TO RIGHT) Hamlet played by Samual Cheeseman with Musicians Erick Rivera, Amber Hugee, and Martin Gutfeldt PHOTO: Tom McGrath TCMcG Photography

When:

6PM

Where:

July 8-9 @ Lincoln Park, 2405 N Lincoln Park West, 60614
July 15-16 and 22-23 @ Touhy Park, 7348 N Paulina, 60626
July 29-30 and August 5-6 @ Schreiber Park, 1552 W Scheiber, 60626
August 12-13 and 19-20 @ Gross Park, 2708 W Lawrence, 60625
August 26-27 @ Lincoln Park, 2405 N Lincoln Park West, 60614

Tickets:

All performances are free. Seating is first come, first served. Early arrival for picnicking is encouraged.
For more information check out https://midsommerflight.com/current-flight/

Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

Stephen B. Starr
PHOTO: Eric Ramirez

About the Author:

Stephen B. Starr is Principal of Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc., a design and communication consultancy in Evanston, IL. Stephen is a former president of the Chicago Creative Coalition, organizer for the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group and founder and organizer of the Chicago Web Professionals. Stephen is nurtured creatively by the fine art of story-telling — especially in the theater. As a college journalism major, he has since followed the siren’s call of poetry and short story writing in his free time. He is interested in the wisdom of indigenous spiritual traditions and seeks inspiration in natural settings by gardening, camping, hiking and biking.

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