Liam Fitzpatrick portrays the vengeful Danish prince in the CNY Playhouse production of “Hamlet,” running through May 19, at the ShoppingTown Mall. (Amelia Beamish photo)
One of the best singers on the local theater scene, Liam Fitzpatrick hits a high note as Hamlet in the CNY Playhouse production running through May 19, at ShoppingTown DeWitt. And he does so without ever vocalizing a note. Instead, he totally immerses himself into the complex character of the troubled Danish prince.
Fitzpatrick, who works as a tenor soloist and cantor at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt and at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, employs substantial acting chops as Hamlet wrestles for control in a tormented quest to uncover the truth about his father’s murder. Like a singer sliding into a different key, Fitzpatrick’s Hamlet nimbly dances the line between clarity and craziness.
William Shakespeare’s play dramatizes the vengeance the young prince plans to wreak upon his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered his own brother, King Hamlet, and seized the throne. To make matters worse, Claudius has also married his dead brother’s widow, Prince Hamlet’s mother.
Directed by Ohio Wesleyan University alumna Margot Reed, this “Hamlet” seems to be set in a 1940s-era Denmark taken over by Claudius’ fascist regime, his henchmen outfitted in red armbands.
Many members of the cast of 27 have significant Shakespearean experience. Besides Fitzpatrick, standouts include Simon Moody as the king’s overly solicitous counselor, Polonius; Katherine Gibson as Hamlet’s “stained” mother, Gertrude; Alan Stillman as the duplicitous Claudius; Lynn Barbato King as the melodramatic Ophelia and Michael King as her hot-headed brother, Laertes.
As Hamlet’s right-hand man, Horatio, Basil Allen displays a real feeling for Shakespeare, delivering his lines in their natural rhythm. Allen’s likable stage presence made him a good choice for this role.
Other players who excelled in minor roles included Alyssa Otoski-Keim as Rosencrantz, William Edward White as the Gravedigger, Miquon Jackson as Fortinbras, the prince of Norway, and especially Christopher Lupia as the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father. Lupia – a graduate of Le Moyne College’s drama department – listed no other Shakespearean roles in his program bio, but he rose to this occasion like a trouper, making the ghost utterly real, demanding revenge and angrily reprimanding Hamlet for his inaction.
Lupia, White and Rob Searle collaborated on the scenic design, which effectively brought the ghost to life via video, a gambit used again later in the play to depict Ophelia’s drowning.
Fight coordinator Derek Potocki doubles as the vicious soldier, Francisco, who is ordered by Claudius to beat Hamlet mercilessly after the accidental murder of Polonius. Potocki likely also advised on the climactic fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, a well-choreographed clash of rapiers.
With more than two dozen players and a crew of 10, this “Hamlet” is clearly a team effort, but the focus is fixed on Fitzpatrick.
Whether sharing a secret with Ophelia, berating his uncle, scolding his mother or scheming with his few loyal friends, Fitzpatrick’s Hamlet is more muscle than madness. Despite his indecision, he overflows with energy.
Fitzpatrick handles the sometimes difficult language the way a soprano would handle an arduous aria. With deft phrasing, for example, he breathes new life into the old, nearly clichéd soliloquies, such as “to be or not to be,” “alas, poor Yorick,” and “get thee to a nunnery.”
For audiences, “Hamlet” is a tragedy. For Liam Fitzpatrick, it’s a triumph.
“Hamlet,” produced by Pat Catchouny and Michaela Oney, runs at 8 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 17, 18 and 19, at CNY Playhouse, located near the Macy’s entrance at on the second level of ShoppingTown Mall. Tickets cost $17 on Thursday and Sunday and $20 on Friday and Saturday; cnyplayhouse.org; 315-885-8960.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.