For the first time this season, Trinity Repertory Company is hosting a truly brilliant production-the theatre’s first performance ofHamlet. Some may wonder why it took so many years to showcase Shakespeare’s most famous play, but is definitely well worth the wait.

Directed by Brian McEleney, Trinity’s rendition of Hamlet is set in the 1930s-a time engulfed in stark class differences that are apparent throughout the performance. The wealthy, who are constantly buzzing around the Hamlet estate, keep the whiskey and good times flowing despite the king’s recent death. The young Hamlet is enraged at the new marriage between his mother, the queen (Cynthia Strickland) and Claudius (Timothy Crowe), his stepfather. In a fun twist to the original tale, Polonius (Janice Duclos) is the woman in charge of all the domestic duties as her daughter Ophelia (Rachael Warren) steals kisses from Hamlet while cleaning house.

Stephen Thorne masterfully leads the cast in the role of the haunted prince Hamlet, who must choose between avenging his father’s death and protecting his own self. Thorne gives an outstanding performance throughout the 2 ½ hour show, but he truly shines as the character’s complexity and madness deepens.

Trinity regular Rachel Warren brings immense despair to her role as the equally haunted Ophelia. Whether erratically singing and tearing up flowers or splashing in a bathtub, Warren proves that she has the talent to bring one of Shakespeare’s most desperate characters to the stage. Joe Wilson, Jr. is also a breath of fresh air on the stage-his command of the role of Horatio stands up nicely to Thorne’s Hamlet.

However, Trinity Rep’s version is not all sorrow and insanity but rather with quite a bit of comic relief to keep the audience fully engaged. Janice Duclos’ boisterous outbursts and long-winded monologues produced quite a few laughs. Fred Sullivan, Jr. and Rama Marshall expertly delivered a slapstick-type routine while digging graves. It is little additions such as these that makeHamlet a must-see event for even those who dislike Shakespeare’s work.

Although the stage has the same general structure as this season’sChristmas Carol, the set designers create a fantastic center stage that includes a black piano, a grandiose sitting room, and a monstrous wooden cabinet against the back wall that holds china and silverware. Side platforms hold the bathroom and chapel settings for the performance. Towards the end of the performance, cast members drape the entire stage with beautiful white fabric that sets the mood for Ophelia’s throws and Hamlet’s trek with Horatio.

As a whole, Trinity Rep’s version of Hamlet is a must see for all theatergoers. I am so excited for the school groups that will be experiencing this version of Shakespeare, opposed to the awful film version with Mel Gibson.

Not surprisingly, Trinity Repertory Company has decided extend the run of this show through March 5th. Contact the box office (401-351-4242) for tickets or visit www.trinityrep.com.