Murder Most Foul: “Hamlet” Arrives at the Folger

Shakespeare’s masterpiece gets transported from the famed Globe to the more intimate Capitol Hill theater.

By: Sophie Gilbert

Shakespeare’s Globe brings its acclaimed, pared-down production of Hamlet from London to Capitol Hill’s Folger Theatre September 8 through 22—something Folger artistic producer Janet Alexander Griffin has long hoped to see: “They’re the Shakespeare theater of record, we’re the library of record. This is the result of a couple of summers of trying to figure out how we could collaborate.” Codirector Dominic Dromgoole has trimmed the show to 2½ hours, and his production uses just eight actors for more than a dozen characters. Griffin says Dromgoole has also found ways to enhance the humor in the tragic play, resulting in an interpretation London’s Daily Telegraph praised as “fast, fresh, and lucid.” Though this is the Globe’s first trip to DC, one cast member is familiar with the city. Michael Benz, who plays the title role, got an undergrad degree at Georgetown and, while a student, performed in local productions of Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing before heading to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

With just 250 seats, the Folger offers a more intimate experience than the Globe, which can host 3,000 seated and standing. Built in 1599 to host Shakespeare’s company, the structure was demolished in 1644 before being rebuilt thanks to the efforts of actor and director Sam Wanamaker. Griffin hopes the Folger production will allow audiences to find something new in a classic drama: “Dominic is a very exciting director—he’s smart and a little edgy. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s made of the greatest play in the English language.”

Tickets ($60 to $85) at folger.edu.

This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.