Guy Adkins, a favorite at the Court Theatre of Chicago, has been rewarded by the company with drama's most famous role: Hamlet. He will play the Melancholy Dane, under Charles Newell's direction, from Feb. 14 to March 24. Official opening is Feb 23.
Adkins' previous credits at the Court include Twelfth Night, Piano, The Learned Ladies and Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards. He also played the young A.E. Housman in The Invention of Love.
The ambitious Newell promises a "physically and emotionally aggressive production" of Shakespeare rather already physically and emotionally overwrought tragedy. To achieve this, he corralled his design team early on. Set designer Narelle Sissons was charged with creating a set of reflective aluminum panels representing Claudius' "shiny new Denmark." Costumer Joyce Kim Lee will complement all that metal with shimmering costumes, though Hamlet himself will wear his customary black—or a not so-customary birthday suit (press materials hint he will be naked at times). Fight director Robin McFarquhar will have his scuffles and weapons all worked out by first rehearsal.
Perhaps most importantly, Newell's desire for an all-encompassing sound design is being seen to by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman. Newell has said he sees the play as a "great chamber music piece," with its four distinct voices coming from (in order of dominance): Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet and the court population.
Newell has also taken a weighty scissors to the text, slicing off a good 30 percent. As has become common in recent Hamlets, the character of Fortinbras has been completely eliminated, thus dispensing with the political subplot of Norway's invasion. Overall, the director hopes to create a production that is "aggressive, needful, brutal," and "not contemplative." (The decidedly thoughtful Hamlet himself may have something to say about not being contemplative.) Tickets are $28-$40. Call (773) 753-4472.
—By Robert Simonson