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Glencoe’s Writers’ Theatre  energized by ‘Hamlet’ cast

Larry Yando (left) Scott Parkinsrehearse “Hamlet” Writers’ Theatre.  |  Phoby Michael Brosilow

Larry Yando (left) and Scott Parkinson rehearse “Hamlet” at Writers’ Theatre. | Photo by Michael Brosilow

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♦ Through Nov. 11

♦ Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe

♦ Tickets, $35-$70

♦ (847) 242-6000;

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Updated: September 12, 2012 5:00PM

‘When you put together a brilliant actor and a great play, it attracts other great actors to the project,” says Michael Halberstam, artistic director at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe.

He should know. That happens with some regularity at Writers,’ and looks to be happening again with the theater’s upcoming production of “Hamlet,” running through Nov. 11 at the 325 Tudor Court stage in Glencoe.

To play Hamlet, Halberstam tapped Scott Parkinson, an award-winning actor who’s worked in New York and Chicago, as well as Writers’.

“Scott has such a far-reaching imagination, and an ability with language that feels absolutely available and accessible, that he was a natural choice,” Halberstam says. And he adds, the primary reason a director chooses to do “Hamlet” is that he has a great Hamlet.

Halberstam has gathered a cast worthy of his Hamlet. It includes Shannon Cochran (just off her stellar performance playing Gertrude in Writers’ “A Little Night Music”), TV and film actor Michael Canavan, as Claudius; Chicago actor Timothy Edward Kane as Laertes; veteran Chicagoactors Larry Yando as the Ghost and Ross Lehman as Polonius; and as Horatio, Kareem Bandealy, who appeared in Writers’ “The Caretaker” last winter.

Halberstam figures this illustrious troupe signed on of course because it’s great Shakespeare, but also because Parkinson is ready to take on his critical role. “You need an actor who can encompass a world of ideas,” Halberstam says, and the ensemble knows this. “They wouldn’t have agreed to do it if they didn’t think it was a good idea.”

Though Shakespeare’s great tragedy comes burdened with centuries of weighty productions and performances, Halberstam looks at it as he does any play.

“You have to approach the play as if it’s a completely new script and ask all the practical questions, if you hope to craft a credible journey for your audience.”

Which, Halberstam believes, always brings audiences back to “Hamlet.” The prince’s journey is accessible to everyone.

“What’s amazing is that you don’t have to bend Shakespeare’s words to find ideas and themes,” he says. “Shakespeare’s is a continually evolving voice.”

And for Halberstam, the many choices each actor, designer and technician must make, will set it apart from all other productions of “Hamlet.”

It helps too that “Hamlet” is “one of the most far-ranging pieces of dramatic literature ever written,” says Halberstam. It’s a romantic intrigue, a family saga, a ghost tale, a murder mystery, a political drama.

The play is ideal for the multi-tasking, over-informed always-engaged audiences of 2012. Or for those who just like a rousing good story.

Sara Burrows is a local free-lance writer.

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