William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the 2012 fall play put on by the Harker Conservatory Oct. 25-27, offered a refreshing take on the revered, centuries-old tale of the rotten happenings in the state of Denmark.
Featuring no fewer than five capable actors and actresses in the title role – Jai Ahuja, grade 10, Cecilia Lang-Ree, Rahul Nalamasu, Hannah Prutton, all grade 12, and Namrata Vakkalagadda, grade 11 – director Jeffrey Draper’s take on one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays uniquely depicted Prince Hamlet’s various and often conflicting mental and emotional states; the transitions as each actor handed the role off the next were interesting and seamless.
Other characters were portrayed by multiple players: Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, was played by Shazdeh Hussain, grade 11, and Cristina Jerney, grade 12; sophomore Jeton Gutierrez-Bujaru and junior Ian Richardson were Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and murderer of his father; and Ishanya Anthapur, grade 10, and Apurva Tandon, grade 12, portrayed Ophelia, Hamlet’s would-be lover.
The guileful Polonius, royal counselor and Ophelia’s father, was played by junior Damon Aitken, who brilliantly put across the character’s stately yet playful attitude. In the role of Horatio, Claudia Tischler, grade 11, was more than effective as Hamlet’s best friend and confidant, and the brash, vengeful Laertes was expertly portrayed by Vishal Vaidya, grade 10.
The Saturday matinee show featured an understudy cast that was very warmly received by the afternoon audience. Maya Nandakumar, grade 10, Rachel Renteria, grade 9, Simran Singh, grade 10 and Gurutam Thockchom, grade 9, were stirring as Hamlet, while Aashika Balaji, grade 9, and Madi Lang-Ree, grade 10, had convincing turns as Gertrude. Claudius was well-played by freshmen Dhanush Madabus and MC Smitherman, and Shannon O’Shea and Cordelia Larsen, both grade 9, deftly handled the challenging role of Ophelia. Grade 9 students Rishabh Chandra and Janet Lee were both strong as Polonius and Horatio, respectively.
Paul Vallerga’s set design made clever use of a large video monitor that changed with each setting. Natti Pierce-Thomson’s evocative lighting was also a key feature, such as the scenes in which Hamlet speaks with his father’s ghost (played by Justin Gerard, grade 12, also cast as the player king, messenger and priest, and by Kaushik Sankar, grade 9, at the understudy show), drenched with red light and intensified by the reverb and bass that boomed throughout the Blackford Theater when the specter spoke.
Eschewing the usual period garb, costume designer Caela Fujii placed the characters in modern attire more befitting a gangster movie, evidence of the transcendent power of the play’s themes of betrayal, revenge and moral conflict. The climactic sword fight sequence was well-choreographed by Kit Wilder, managing director of San Jose’s City Lights Theater.