"It's Hamlet's journey. The only speeches are the ones he experiences," says Roberts, artistic director of Prague Shakespeare Company who returns to Houston once every year or so with his productions that Main Street Theater hosts. "It's 90 minutes with no interval once Hamlet begins his journey."
In 90 minutes, Roberts will take on all the characters in a play he helped develop and perform ten years ago working with John Johnson and Classical Theatre Company of Houston. He decided to take it on again because with a decade's difference, he says, he has a different way of looking at the characters and what happens to them in the classic story.
As the play opens, Hamlet's father has died two months before. The young prince has come home to mourn his death and is not at all happy that his mother has already remarried and making things worse, to his uncle, his father's brother. He begins to question the manner of his father's death. On top of the family drama and Hamlet's affection for Ophelia whose brother warns her to stay away from the moody prince, there are all sort of political machinations involving Denmark and Norway.
"Who can resist a play with eight violent deaths, a ghost, adultery, incest, a mad woman and a fight in a grave?"
"Hamlet is a play that doesn’t go out of style. How do you respond to large political social issues that you believe are corrupt? Roberts says. "Who can resist a play with eight violent deaths, a ghost, adultery, incest, a mad woman and a fight in a grave?"
Roberts will be dressed in simple black clothing for the performance, letting Shakespeare's words have center stage, he says. "It's really a focus on the text and the story of Hamlet. The words are just so beautiful to say."
What keeps the play fresh and exciting, he says, is that questions always remain for audience members after a showing.
"Though the play contains as much intrigue (and possibly bloodshed) as many action movies, no hero—or villain—in history has embodied such a complexity of thought and emotion. In the end, Hamlet is an exciting and essential theatrical experience compelling audiences to decide for themselves whether he is philosopher, dilettante, hero, villain, lover, madman, fighter, victim or some fluid, ambiguous and contradictory combination of all of these."
Performances are scheduled for January 9-19 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and 3 p.m Sundays at Main Street Theater - Rice Village, 2540 Times. For information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36-$55.