The lighting by David Bortle is the dimmest thing about the entire proceedings, obscuring in blue shadows what little life the actors have managed to discover. Perhaps the performances seemed even flatter when fully visible, but I would rather have seen that for myself.

The costumes by Tammi Hocking and the property design by Cat Dragon are distractingly bizarre, both overstating the visual evidence that something is rotten in Denmark. The intended time or place is a mystery, unexplained by the program, and the costumes and props suggest a sort of a Mad Max-influenced medley of generic "ye olde period."

As for the supporting cast, only Ken Love even comes close to a legitimate interpretation in the role of Claudius, Shakespeare's second largest part. He speaks with authority, makes sense of the verse and has moments of simulated feeling. Suzanne Lee Murray makes an appealing Ophelia, although she blows her big moment ("Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown") and plays her mad scenes like a lunatic, rather than a deeply disturbed orphan who takes her own life. She has taken the lines about "painted faces" quite literally, and has slathered on the rouge.

Much worse is Sylvia Vizcaya as a tipsy Gertrude, in a red velvet gown that even Scarlett O'Hara would have left as drapes. Thomas Burns' tedious portrayal would justify an earlier death scene for Polonius. As Horatio, Al Benneian listens well, until he begins to emote in the final scene. The funniest performance of the evening (intended) is that of Mike Lawler as the philosophical gravedigger.

The most ludicrous performance (unintended) was given by Brad Erickson, whose bulging talent is stuffed into white pants as Rosencrantz. His animated gesticulation dramatizes each image of each phrase.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark will of course survive this deadly reading, and perhaps the players found their experience enlarged by their encounter with this ghost of greatness. I doubt many in the audience will.

Marshall W. Mason has won six Obie Awards for directing work by playwrights Lanford Wilson, Tennessee Williams and Jules Feiffer. Mason is now associate professor of theatre at Arizona State University.

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