“Hamlet” Steeped in Intrigue and Emotional Depth


Aurora Byrne

Nate Smith, playing Claudius, Cassandra Grove, playing Queen Gertrude, and other cast rehearse during DVC Drama’s dress rehearsal on Jan. 28, in the PAC. The play premiered on Jan. 31.

Aurora Byrne, Staff member

“Hamlet,” as performed by DVC’s drama department, offers an intriguing, multi-dimensional portrayal of one of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies.

Director Nicole Hess-Diestler and assistant director Maiya Corral successfully reinterpret this classic as an emotional and character driven drama.

The story is of young Hamlet, whose father has just died, and whose uncle promptly marries his widowed mother.

Hamlet struggles with feelings of grief and betrayal, desperately seeking someone to blame for his pain. As his suspicions grow, his relationships begin to suffer, causing him to withdraw internally. The more unstable he becomes, the more his loved ones attempt to reach out to him, causing him to question the motives of even those he had trusted most. Grief, madness and the various ways in which we cope with loss, are brilliantly explored in this sophisticated reinvention of a classic.  This adaptation takes place in Denmark, South Carolina, bringing the drama closer to home, causing the story to become more relatable to a contemporary audience.

Gordon Belanger’s performance in the title role of Hamlet allows us to feel his suffering, and understand his obsessions and gradual loss of sanity.  It was as if we could feel his heartache, and wanted to protect him from the unintended consequences of his actions. Belanger had many winning scenes, but one of the most dramatic comes early in the play, when Hamlet believes he is being visited by the ghost of his dead father. Belanger was so convincing in his depiction of another worldly possession that I got chills and found myself gasping aloud.

The entire production was skillfully cast: Cassandra Grove as a regal and elegant Queen Gertrude, an earnest and protective Laertes played by Tyler Liams and an optimistic sweetness to Allen Miller’s Horatio. All the actors gave good performances, with standout performances from Jeremy Dorado as Polonius, and Kailah Cayou as his daughter, Ophelia. Cayou shows us a delicate vulnerability and innocence, which captured the spirit of Ophelia beautifully, enticing us to follow into her soft sweet descent into madness.  Dorado’s performance as Polonius was absolutely seamless, from beginning to end. He embodies his character so fully, in mannerism, in tone and even in the subtleties of his facial expressions. Dorado’s talent is palpable, with nuances in his performance which bring depth and humor to his character.

The set design was excellent, with shimmering weepy willows reminding us of the southern setting, and smooth transitions from scene to scene, which kept our attention in the story, as did the subtle musical score. Music was soft and used only sparingly, an excellent example of ‘less being more.’  The costumes were well constructed, and Queen Gertrude’s dress was absolutely beautiful, with luxurious fabric and style.

The attention to detail in all aspects of this production are impressive, though the true genius here is in the range of emotions we experience along with the characters. This is not a show to miss.

“Hamlet” runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. starting Jan. 31 – Feb. 16 at the Performing Arts Center at Diablo Valley College. For tickets call (925) 969-2358 or visit the drama department website at dvcdrama.net.