Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd

A New Spin on “Hamlet” at 3rd Act Theatre is Interesting and Entertaining

The Ghost of King Hamlet standing behind wife Gertrude played by Denise Hughes. Photo courtesy of April Porterfield

“The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” or, simply “Hamlet” is currently being presented by 3rd Act Theatre in Oklahoma City. Considered to be one of Shakespeare’s most important works, “Hamlet” is also the longest play in his considerable repertoire.  Dakota Lee Bryant directs expertly and the show breezes by without a hint of tediousness that can accompany the long productions.  This version is an adaptation by Bryant and has been re-imagined so, while it is shorter, the integrity of the story line has been preserved.

Historically, proper ladies never engaged in public performance and, as a result, female characters were portrayed by young men.  Nowadays there is no stigma preventing women from performing and further, it is quite common and ironically fitting for women to play male characters.  This is certainly true in Bryant’s re-imagining and several roles are played by women including the title role of Hamlet.  In the case of the production, the women are not playing men, instead those characters are simply presented as women. 

Hamlet’s story of revenge against the Uncle who has murdered his brother, King Hamlet,  to gain the throne is a tale of woe.  Uncle Claudius has cemented his rule by wedding King Hamlet’s widow, Gertrude. As a result, Hamlet feels that he has been deprived of both mother and father as well as kingdom by the duplicity and ambition of Claudius.  Claudius moves quickly developing a loyal base including Polonius parent of Ophelia and Hamlet’s comrade in arms, Laertes.  As the play progresses there is an abundance of characters descending into madness (real as well as imagined) and a deep decline in the population of Denmark.  This is a royal family that has done far too much damage to each other to continue.  Although there is an atmosphere of war coming to the Denmark of Hamlet’s youth, there is no battle of nations, only a battle of broken families leaving a bloody scene filled with death and destruction.

Kathy Skaggs is an excellent Hamlet and she presents the character with a feminine slant while retaining the manly honor Hamlet sees as his duty.  The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is altered considerably introducing the element of lesbianism, however this is done unobtrusively, allowing the primary point of the play to remain unclouded by any LGBTQ angst.  Further the chemistry between Skaggs and Jacey Nichole in the role of Ophelia seems quite platonic in attitude without sacrificing the passion.  An unusually rickety fence to straddle yet both actresses maintain their balance gracefully.

The disloyal royal couple, King Claudius and his bride Gertrude are played by Taylor Reich as the evil Uncle and Denise Hughes as the selfish mother.  While both have betrayed Hamlet and committed treason, Gertrude’s abandonment of motherly duty combined with her  perfidy is far more personal.  Reich and Hughes portray a couple who have succumbed to the attractive lure of power, yet have lost far more than they have gained.  These roles could not have been cast more perfectly.

Taylor Reich as Claudius in “Hamlet” Photo courtesy of April Porterfield

In the Bryant adaptation Polonius is not father to Ophelia and Laertes, but mother.  Rachel Morgan  brings an element of ruthlessness to the role, neither masculine nor feminine but definitely demanding and scheming.  Laertes, her son and Ophelia’s brother is well-played by Kaelin Presley McGowan.  He handles the conflicting emotions with naturalness providing realistic reactions to unlikely events.

Another interesting dynamic is created by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Guildenstern is firmly portrayed by Tasheem Al-Michael and the role of Rosencrantz is done by Kate Adams.  While both personalities reflect the traditional interpretation of friendship, Adams has added a slight hesitancy to Rosencrantz which acknowledges the platonic relationship yet establishes a normality to the womanliness of Guildenstern.  The resulting performance respects the traditional while acknowledging the atypical characterizations. The essential role of Hamlet’s friend Horatio is expertly revealed by Reed Bentley.  Bentley also contributes as fight captain for “Hamlet” and imparts sensitivity both to Horatio and the fighting.

Many of the actors portray a multiplicity of roles with distinctiveness and genuineness.  Maurice Quintel Simmons is a player in the play within a play (a favorite Shakespearean device) as Simmons plays King and Clown with equal enthusiasm. Maddie Wall is just as jealous ad zealous opposite Simmons as Queen and Clown complimenting all fellow actors.

The final essential character is not credited, the Ghost.  A very inventive costume skulks about the stage as a possible figment of Hamlet’s imagination, unseen by most but perceived by Hamlet and some others.  Perhaps the Ghost of King Hamlet, the now ethereal but still loving father of Hamlet is a figment of the audience imagination as well.  It is the non-corporeal effect created by Amandanell Bold, Costume Designer, that lends movement and physical presence to the Ghost as he orchestrates vengeance through his daughter, Hamlet.

Bryant’s direction is gilt-edged, and reflected in the softened edges of swordsmanship provided by the actors.  Reed Bentley is the Fight Captain while Kris Kuss is the Fight Choreographer.  Kuss gives the actors familiarity with the principles needed in fencing making the swordsmanship effective.  Michelle Hall stage manages skillfully on a set designed by Don Taylor.  Taylor extends the set into the audience creating a much broader scope for the actors but it could be improved with a greater angle to the audience seating.  While the visuals are worth craning the neck, that pain in the neck demands a massage for older patrons.  Christine Jolly handles the sound design while Amandanell Bold creates the lighting effect and design in addition to her work on costumes.  Michele Fields gathers props and there is important work done by stage hands Jeni White and Edmund Gen.  Mall at 12040 N. May Avenue (122nd and May) in Oklahoma City.  For a very unique and excellent perspective on “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” this is a fascinating version for Shakespeare fans as well as Shakespeare novices.

The cast of “Hamlet” deals quite competently with face shields protecting patrons but it is to be hoped they will soon be a thing of the past. 

“Hamlet” runs Friday May 13 through Saturday, May  28, 2022.  There will be a streaming performance on Sunday, May 29, 2022.  Curtain is 8:00 pm evenings with a 2:30 Sunday matinee.  For further information and tickets visit or the Facebook page.  Patrons who are more old-fashioned, simply call 405-593-8093.  3rd Act Theatre is located in the Shoppes at North Park.