Archive for the 'press' Category

Long Beach Press-Telegram review

July 7, 2006


Timeless tragedy in a beautiful setting
By Shirle Gottlieb, Correspondent

THOUGH IT’S certainly open to debate, “Hamlet” is probably the most beloved of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.

Since 1602 when it was written, “Tragedy of Hamlet” has been translated, updated, adapted and performed all over the world. In addition, the demanding part of the Prince of Denmark has become a challenge for actors everywhere to test their dramatic skills.

Though I’ve seen myriad interpretations of “Hamlet” over the years, I was anxious to see how Shakespeare by the Sea handled this immortal drama – which is playing in repertory with “The Comedy of Errors” through Aug. 12.

I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of people flocked to beautiful Point Fermin to bask in Shakespeare’s words, the park’s natural surroundings and the sunset over the ocean. And it’s free, courtesy of Shakespeare by the Sea, a company whose mission is to make The Bard come alive for young and old in the South Bay area.

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s amateurish. Quite the contrary. This is a first-rate production of working professionals who demonstrate their talents under the informed, high-spirited direction of Josh Costello.

The success or failure of this classic tale of murder, mayhem, madness and incest rests on the shoulders of the actor portraying Hamlet, and Mark Joseph is simply sensational. A member of California Repertory Company in Long Beach, Joseph commands the stage from his opening scene on the ramparts (the one with the ghost of his father) through his dying words at the end of the play.

Almost everyone reading this review knows the story: Something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark! Out of blind ambition and lust, Uncle Claudius (Don Formaneck) kills his brother, theking, Hamlet’s father. Then in less than two months, he connivingly seizes his brother’s throne and marries Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Jill Cary Martin), the king’s widow.

When the ghost of Hamlet’s father demands revenge, Hamlet – feeling completely helpless – delivers his world famous monologue (“To be or not to be”) and feigns madness. From this point on, tragedy is heaped upon tragedy until the bloody, awful end.

In spite of its dark, inevitable plot, there’s a lot of humor in “Hamlet,” as there is in all of Shakespeare’s writing. In this case, Chris Roberts is terrific in his portrayal of the dithering old Polonius. Also enjoyable is the good-natured give-and-take banter between Laertes (Aaron Sherry) and Hamlet before their relationship gets thwarted and the three parts played by John E. Farrell (the Ghost, Player King and wise old gravedigger).

As for Ophelia, Rebecca Lincoln is a vision of virginal beauty as the tragic love of Hamlet’s life. Barbara Suiter and Jim Van Over play off of each other well as manipulated students Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And Crystal Sershen portrays Horatio, Hamlet’s loyal steadfast friend.

Although Valerie Wright’s lovely costumes suggest that this version of “Hamlet” is set in the 19th century, Aaron Jackson’s functional set is completely timeless. Kudos to Martin Noyes for his bang-up job as fight director. Everyone knows the deadly outcome of the duel between Hamlet and Horatio, but the gripping scene is so realistic, the audience is completely captivated.

Take my advice and don’t miss “Hamlet.” Grab a warm sweatshirt and blanket, pack a picnic and head for San Pedro.

Shirle Gottlieb is a Long Beach freelance writer


another article

June 23, 2006

This one's from a column in the Daily Breeze, and it's all about the Artistic Director and how she makes the festival happen every year. 

There is madness, then there is the fine madness of Lisa Coffi, an altogether intelligent, charming and ambitious woman who should know better than to try running a summer Shakespeare festival. Seriously, can you think of a better way to lose money?

That is, if she was even charging money.

Only she's not.

It's a neat little piece laying out just how ridiculous it is to try to make money doing theatre in our current environment, and it includes a plea for more donations.  Lisa only gets paid if she raises enough money for everything else first.  The actors get paid shares of pass-the-hat audience donations at the shows — it should be enough to cover what they're all spending on gas.  The stage managers, designers, and directors each get a stipend.  Everyone on the production has the chops necessary to do this at a fully professional level; for now, working on great plays with great people in a great location will suffice.

article in the Daily Breeze

June 17, 2006

Another preview article here. And here's the relevant bit:

The festival is also mounting "Hamlet" in a version that will run in less than two hours. When the full text of the play is performed, it lasts more than four hours.

Director Josh Costello said the version that will be performed will retain the play's memorable soliloquies and streamline Danish politics.

"All the big important lines are in there," Costello said. "And it focuses it more on the family story lines."

Costello said he's setting the play in the 1890s and using Art Nouveau as his inspiration for the staging. Costello has been researching the advertising posters and paintings of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, who is perhaps best known for his theater poster advertising Sarah Bernhardt's "Gismonda."

Of the various themes in the play, Costello said he picked change as the central angle of the production. Costello said Hamlet's crisis stems from hanging onto the past.

"Hamlet's all in black," Costello said. "He's in mourning; but the world he's in is very elegant."

first publicity shot

June 1, 2006

early press

June 1, 2006

The Long Beach Press-Telegram has an article about summer Shakespeare in LA; they interviewed me for the piece and I'm quoted a bit talking about Hamlet. I've done a bunch of these over the last few years in LA, and more back in Berkeley when I was running Impact Theatre. Saying the right thing in a press interview is a real skill. If I don't prepare and take my time, I end up talking in long, run-on sentences, trying to impress the reporter with my enthusiasm. Which isn't the point — the point is to give easily digestible quotes hyping the show that the reporter can easily paste into the story. The real trick is to plan out more or less exactly what you want to say, and then just say it regardless of the questions the reporter asks. Hey, it works for politicians.

I tried to wing this one a bit, thinking that all the analysis I've done on the play would make it easy to answer any questions the reporter could come up with. Bad move — I ended up talking too much about my analysis and not enough about why people should come see the show. But it could have turned out a lot worse. Here's the excerpt from the paper:

Symbolism of another sort is on tap for "Hamlet."

Directed by Josh Costello, this is possibly Shakespeare's most famous play. Set in Denmark, it is the story of Prince Hamlet, who is in mourning for his father the king, who died suddenly. Hamlet is already upset that his uncle Claudius quickly took over the kingship and married the widowed queen. When he finds out his uncle was his father's murderer, he decides to take revenge. But getting that revenge is harder than it seems.

Costello is setting the show in the 1890s, or at the end of the industrial revolution.

"It really gets at the idea of change," he said, adding that Hamlet is put in a situation where he faces a lot of unwelcome change. "Claudius is changing everything."

Other than changing the time of the piece, Costello otherwise leaves it fairly traditional.

"I'm a big believer in Shakespeare, in that he knew what he was doing," Costello said.

I gave what was probably a more successful interview following the live television broadcast of my adaptation of The Rover on Orange County's PBS affiliate. I knew I would be completely overwhelmed (I had been in the television control room telling the TV director where the actors would be moving so he could call the camera shots), so I planned a few key points I wanted to hit about the play. The interviewer (Kitty Felde, a familiar voice in LA public radio) also asked a question that let me say something funny that I hadn't planned to bring up — I lucked out. Here's that clip.