Shakespeare’s words carry such a perennial quality which in turn, make them living texts capable of re-imagination and modernization. Waterwell Theatre Company, known for “the creation of new works and the bold re-interpretation of classics” is currently breathing life into Denmark’s contemplative prince, Hamlet.
Director Tom Ridgely has chosen to place the action in what was once considered Persia (now Iran) around 1920. At that time, the Ottoman Empire was resistant to take over from British and Russian armed forces. Existing leadership was being pushed out and newer, brasher officials were seeking control. Consequently, cultural identity was compromised. Ridgely has opted to explore that aspect by staging an ambitious bilingual production combining Farsi and English. Conceptually, the idea is brilliant and insightful . In execution, it is often muddy- even though it is based upon the Bard’s original text.
The large cast includes the title character (Arian Moayed), who was wonderful in last year’s, multi-award winning Broadway play The Humans. Moayed also serves as an artistic director to Waterwell and brings a serviceable performance to the production. Other theatre notables include Sheri Rene Scott as Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude and Micah Stock as Hamlet’s pal, Horatio. Ajay Naidu is a particular standout for his wise, but chatty interpretation of Polonius. Naidu’s dual role of the gravedigger also provides some much needed comic relief from the dramatic nature of the tale.
What truly makes the production sing—literally-are the musical interludes by Mohsen Namjoo and Yahya Alkhansa. Namjoo has been labeled as “The Bob Dylan of Iran” in the New York Times. The pair recently collaborated on Namjoo’s album “Personal Cipher.” Together, they create music that is simultaneously dramatic and hypnotic. Waterwell’s multi- casting is another praise-worthy choice. During our current political landscape, it is a crucial reminder that America’s voice is not reflected by a solitary administration, but rather by the eloquent languages of a diverse people.
Waterwell’s Hamlet is currently at the Sheen Center for Art and Culture through June 3. For tickets and information, visit Waterwell’s Hamlet.