The Northwest Classical Theatre Company prides themselves on thoughtful, no-frills adaptations of classic texts, and their production of Hamlet handily meets those in-house standards—the stage is bare, the costumes are unfussy, and the language is as clearly presented and easy to follow as Shakespeare ever is. Hamlet is a familiar enough play, though, that there's no merit alone in producing it cleanly, and NWCTC doesn't bring much new to the table. (There's something a tiny bit embarrassing about watching actors try to put a fresh stamp on the prince of Denmark's most famous soliloquy—once you've seen "to be or not to be" delivered slam poetry style, you've pretty much seen it all.)
This production highlights the show's humor—lead actor Butch Flowers (!) plays Hamlet as a melodramatic youngster prone to overstatement and silly fits of pique. And while this certainly makes the show's first act fun to watch, Flowers struggles with some of his character's more serious moments. Hamlet here is restless, fidgety, and kind of a drama queen, and it proves difficult to believe him capable of the depths of feeling that would drive him to truly mourn the death of his father or the betrayal of his mother. (He's curiously unfazed, for example, to learn that he accidentally stabbed the wrong guy through a curtain.)
The real standout performance in this show comes from David Bodin as Ophelia's father Polonius. It's not simply that Bodin understands the words that he's saying—it's that he truly makes them his own. (He also contributes much of the show's comedy, too, in a second role as a gravedigger.)
The tiny Shoebox Theater can charitably be described as "intimate," but in this case it just feels crowded—from a seat in the front row, I was legitimately concerned about being stepped on as actors entered and exited from the cramped aisles. But close proximity provides plenty of opportunities to mull over the show's strange costuming choices: Ophelia wore a rustle-y Disney princess skirt while Gertrude wore furs; Claudius dressed like a banker, while—in fingerless gloves and a pea coat—Hamlet looked like a very committed Cure fan. And most confusingly, in the final scene, Laertes (Tom Walton) takes the stage in Adidas track pants. Maybe the grab-bag costuming was calibrated to dislocate the script from any particular time period; there's no theatrical cliché quite like recontextualized Shakespeare, after all, and between the costuming and a virtually unadorned stage, it's hard to locate this production in any particular era.
This is a solid show, but it's not an essential one—unless your holiday season was rough enough that you're just itching to see some parents get murdered.