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Author: Lisa Kennedy

DENVER POST: CU Shakespeare Festival flips “Hamlet” on its head with female lead

It matters. It matters not. It matters, it …

So go the two competing thoughts that the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Hamlet”  teases — and sustains. After all, this trip to Denmark — the ninth by the Boulder-based company in its 60 years — features actress Lenne Klingaman in the plum role of theater’s most famous prince.  Er, princess.

If the bittersweet prince is famous for his melancholy and indecision, Klingaman’s performance can’t be accused of either.  Will her vigorous, supple performance silence every naysayer or purist? Of course not. But her phrasing delivery is beautifully nimble, the better to hear the play’s promiscuously sampled phrases in bloody, royal context.

(My first “Hamlet” unfolded at CSF’s Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre in 1980 and gobsmacked me with how so much of the language was already familiar.)

Klingaman’s heir is quick-tongued and savvy, evident when she meets with old classmates Rosencrantz (Michael Bouchard) and Guildenstern (Sean Scrutchins).

(The three and a few more castmates will reconvene in CSF’s mounting of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” July 21 -Aug. 13.)

Her sword play in the climatic bout with Laertes is assured. Hamlet’s sporting showiness gives way to his ill temper.

Directed by Colorado Shakes’ veteran Carolyn Howarth, “Hamlet” is a handsome outing. Yes, even with the titular royal making her first appearance in a lovely plum gown (all of Hugh Hanson’s Edwardian-era costumes are pretty spiffy) at the start of the play, lurking in shadows, listening to the celebratory banter of mother Gertrude (Mare Trevathan) and stepfather Claudius (Gary Wright).

You surely recall that King Claudius cleverly dispatched his brother but not his brother’s ghost. It is that haunting figure who at the play’s start urges our complicated hero onto revenge.

The action takes place on an evocative but fixed set where painted white woods meet a just-as-white palace. Later, a door in the floor will open to introduce a grousing gravedigger and poor Yorick. Shakespeare’s language swirls and arcs and dives enough without waves of scene-changes. Instead, designer Stephan Jones trusts his lighting to cast long tonal shadows or illuminate a stage with tufts of fake snow.

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