Shakespeare/Summerfest Orange County’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet” (through Jul. 23 in Garden Grove) has its strengths and weaknesses, not unlike the play itself. David Denman anchors the play with a strong performance in the lead, though he seems physically wrong for the part. John Walcutt’s Claudius is everything you’d want in one of the Bard’s key villains; Hal Landon Jr. (Polonius) and Tess Lina (Gertrude) top a solid ensemble cast, though Marisa Costa’s Ophelia doesn’t quite measure up.

Peter Uribe directs with a steady hand on the reins. Sean McMullen’s sets are lackluster but his costumes are first-rate; the uncredited sound designer makes very effective use of music throughout the play. Unlike the special appearances by dance ensembles in 2014’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and last year’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the Viet Cam Performing Arts Company seems shoehorned into the show. However entertaining they may be, they diffuse the point of the play-within-the-play (“the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”); they would’ve been a much better fit in the prologue’s wedding scene.


Author: Jordan R. Young

Jordan R. Young is a journalist, show business historian, playwright and theatre critic. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways, AAA Tour Books, and The People’s Almanac.