LEWISTON — Out of the Box Theater is taking on a gigantic challenge by presenting its production of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in a modest space on Aug. 4-6 and 11-13.

Director Linda Britt is confident, however, that the show’s production team has found some ingenious solutions for staging this theater classic at DownStage at L/A Arts, which has a 50-seat capacity.

Britt said she is using a  new configuration, placing the audience on two sides of the action. That means up close and personal for all the drama, comedy and occasional sword fight.

“It’s fast-paced and we have found that this setting is surprisingly spacious,” Britt said.

A full-length production of “Hamlet” can run four and a half hours, but this version is scaled down in both time and cast. Britt, whose background includes classic theater, has the assistance of two Shakespearean scholars on this project.

Stan Spilecki, co-founder of Out of the Box Theater with Britt, and Mark Hazard, who is serving as dramaturge for the play, collaborated to come up with a manageable adaptation in which some characters are combined. In addition, unnecessary dialogue and scenes have been trimmed.

“The soliloquies are there and we have kept the drama and comedy,” Britt said. “It is still Shakespeare’s words. We wanted to be sure we didn’t lose anything, and we feel the essence and the spirit are retained.”

Britt and Spilecki have appeared on-stage and backstage in numerous classics of the theater. Britt’s Out of the Box productions of “Media” and “Death of a Salesman” won Moss Hart awards.

Hazard, who will portray Claudius in “Hamlet,” holds a Ph.D. in medieval literature and has taught material by Shakespeare, Chaucer and Tolkien. As dramaturge, he has been assisting cast members in understanding the Elizabethan style of speech. It is believed “Hamlet” was written circa 1600.

The plot revolves around the young Danish Prince Hamlet’s fevered attempts to avenge the murder of his father by his uncle, Claudius, who took the thrown and married his widowed mother, Gertrude. The tragic circumstances push Hamlet into unbearable grief as well as seething rage as seen in his feigned madness and a real descent toward insanity.

Hamlet’s relationship with his lover, Ophelia, is equally tragic. He mistakenly kills Ophelia’s father, and she goes mad and drowns in a river. Claudius and Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, plot revenge with poisoned drinks and swords, but the deadly plans go awry for all of them.

Themes of treachery, revenge, incest and moral corruption are all explored in  “Hamlet.”

Michael Litchfield, a popular actor in productions throughout the L-A area, plays Hamlet. It’s a complete turn-around from another role he is playing on Tuesdays this summer as a love-struck youth in the musical “The Fantasticks” at the Poland Spring Inn.

Also in the cast are Cheryl Reynolds as Queen Gertrude, Ellen Peters as Ophelia, Ryan Adair as Horatio (Hamlet’s trusted friend), Paul Menezes as Laertes, Harley Marshall as the Ghost, Rachel Spilecki as Guildenstern, Gerry Therrien as Marcellus/Osrick, John Blanchette as Polonius, Michelle Washburn as a messenger/sailor, Jason Pelletier as the Gravedigger, and Jackie McDonald as Rosencrantz/Bernardo.

The production crew includes Stan Spilecki, set/light designer, assisted by Rachel Spilecki, Becca Spilecki and Therrien. Vicki Machado is stage manager; Steve Mortimer, sound design; Melody Driscoll, prompter; Rachel Morin, publicist; Susan Brown, costumer; Blanchette, program; Jeff Soifer, poster; and Patricia Phillips, props.

Go and do

WHAT: “Hamlet”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 4, 5, 6 and 11, 12, 13. No Sunday matinees. Seating is limited.

WHERE: DownStage at L/A Arts, 5 Canal St. Alley, off Pine Street, Lewiston

TICKETS: $10, $12 at the door. Call 782-7228 or visit www.laarts.org.


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