Merced Shakespearefest opens their 12th season this month with Shakespeare's most famous tragedy, "Hamlet."
"I think 'Hamlet' is a story that everyone can relate to in some way," actor Colton Dennis said. "It is a thriller, a drama, a comedy and a love story all rolled into one. It's a tale of revenge, villainy, ambition, treachery, of love and devotion, and asks us: What is our place and role in this world? And what would you do if the stakes were life or death?"
It's a tale of murder and revenge as a distraught Hamlet returns home to Elsinore castle for his father's funeral, only to discover his mother has already remarried his uncle, the man who may have murdered his father.
"I think people will enjoy this story because of its comedy, tragedy, manipulation and treachery that people love to see," actor Travis Blansit said.
This version of "Hamlet" is set in the 21st century with the actors in modern dress, except for some in the play still garbed in Elizabethan costume.
It has a musical score composed and recorded by Bill Dunham for this production.
"I think that people will enjoy this production mainly because it is done little bit differently than most 'Hamlet' productions," actor Bert Ropert said. "The play historically lends itself to a dark and melancholy mood with the actors overemoting and brooding, sometimes to the point where it is ponderous."
"The famous monologue of 'To be or not to be' that is delivered by Colton Dennis is one of the best that I have ever scene. No, it is the best that I have ever seen. It doesn't have that breathy, broody and overacting flavor that often happens with that scene. It is both contemporary and thoughtful, a breath of fresh air," Ropert said.
Actress Emily Wilson, who plays Ophelia, agreed: "Our cast makes this story real, approachable and understandable, not overdramatic.
"The actors play their roles with such honesty, even amidst the subterfuge and scheming, that the audience will know exactly where the plot is taking them," Wilson said, "and I think they'll really enjoy the journey we take them on."
Charlene West plays Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, and she finds that this story still resonates with a modern audience.
"It's one many can relate to," she said. "A mom loses her husband and remarries. Her son, although not a child any more, still has a hard time accepting his mother's new relationship.
"I work as a school counselor and I see that all the time with my students who are struggling with the loss of a parent and the changed relationship with the remaining parent," West said.
"Of course," she added, "Hamlet also throws in some murder, mayhem and mental-health issues. But, hey, it's Shakespeare."
WHEN: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 from Feb. 22 to March 3
WHERE: Merced Multicultural Arts Center, 645 W. Main St.
TICKETS: $10 adults, $5 students and children
CALL: (209) 723-3265
WEB: www.mercedshakespearefest. org