Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe energized by ‘Hamlet’ cast
Larry Yando (left) and Scott Parkinson rehearse “Hamlet” at Writers’ Theatre. | Photo by Michael Brosilow
at Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe
Opens 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13. Performances Tuesdays (no performance Oct. 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (with Wednesday 2 p.m. matinees on Oct. 10, 17 and 31 only); Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (no 6 p.m. performance Oct. 14); through Nov. 11. Post-show discussions on Wednesdays; see “From Page to Stage” in the “Behind the Scenes” section at writerstheatre.org for local library events.
(847) 242-6000, www.writerstheatre.org
Updated: September 6, 2012 10:46AM
“When you put together a brilliant actor and a great play, it attracts other great actors to the project,” says Michael Halberstam, artistic director at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe.
He should know. That happens with some regularity at Writers,’ and looks to be happening again with the theater’s upcoming production of “Hamlet,” opening Sept. 13 at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe.
To play Hamlet, Halberstam tapped Scott Parkinson, an award-winning actor who’s worked in New York and Chicago, as well as at Writers’. “Scott has such a far-reaching imagination, and an ability with language that feels absolutely available and accessible, that he was a natural choice,” the director says. And he adds, the primary reason a director chooses to do “Hamlet” is that he has a great Hamlet.
Halberstam has also gathered a cast worthy of his Hamlet. It includes Shannon Cochran, just off her stellar performance playing Gertrude in Writers’ “A Little Night Music”; Michael Canavan, TV and film actor as Claudius; versatile and much-lauded Chicago actor Timothy Edward Kane as Laertes; two respected Chicago favorites, Larry Yando as the Ghost and Ross Lehman as Polonius; and as Horatio, Kareem Bandealy, who appeared in Writers’ “The Caretaker” last winter.
Halberstam figures this illustrious troupe signed on of course because it’s great Shakespeare, but also because Parkinson is ready to take on his critical role. “You need an actor who can encompass a world of ideas,” he says, and the ensemble knows this. “They wouldn’t have agreed to do it if they didn’t think it was a good idea.”
And the good idea will be the basis of a great show. During rehearsals, says Halberstam, “you can feel the energy flow in the room. Everyone is challenging each other to make dynamic choices.”
Though Shakespeare’s great tragedy comes burdened with centuries of weighty productions and performances, Halberstam looks at it as he does any play. “You have to approach the play as if it’s a completely new script and ask all the practical questions, if you hope to craft a credible journey for your audience.”
Which, Halberstam believes, always brings audiences back to “Hamlet.” The prince’s journey is accessible to everyone. “What’s amazing is that you don’t have to bend Shakespeare’s words to find ideas and themes,” he says. “Shakespeare’s is a continually evolving voice.”
And for Halberstam, the many choices each actor, designer and technician must make, will set it apart from all other productions of “Hamlet.”
It helps too that “Hamlet” is “one of the most far-ranging pieces of dramatic literature ever written,” says Halberstam. It’s a romantic intrigue, a family saga, a ghost tale, a murder mystery, a political drama.
The play is ideal for the multi-tasking, over-informed always-engaged audiences of 2012. Or for those who just like a rousing good story.
“When everything is so polarized,” says Halberstam, “we have a deep, vital need for answers,” and with Shakespeare, we can scrutinize the human condition. “But he reminds us only that there are no answers. Just better questions.”