By Julie and Jon McKenna
Many Atlantans can remember evenings with The Bard of Avon on warm summer evenings in the mid-1980s, when the Georgia Shakespeare Festival was held under a tent pitched on the ball fields at Oglethorpe University, a local landmark for its Gothic architecture nestled among office and apartment complexes of North Buckhead.
In 1997, the festival morphed into the Georgia Shakespeare company and moved permanently indoors, residing in the 509-seat Conant Performing Arts Center at the back of the Oglethorpe campus. In that intimate setting, residents and visitors to Atlanta have come to depend on high-quality, affordable theater (and not exclusively Shakespeare's works, as plays by Tennessee Williams and Ben Jonson, to name a couple of examples, also have been produced).
Through Oct. 27, however, it's all about Shakespeare as the company wraps up its 2013 season with "Hamlet." It's always a treat when skilled actors are coupled with contemporary costumes and props, which make the Bard's words and warnings translate easier to a modern audience.
It takes a bit of time for Joe Knezevich's Hamlet to plummet from angst to madness, but by the end of the first act he's in fine, deranged form (and going shoeless throughout the performance is a nice touch). Also excellent is Allen Edwards with his pompous, bumbling Polonius.
Veteran Atlanta actor Chris Kayser is smooth as Hamlet's murderous uncle Claudius, and Jennifer Schottstaedt (understudy to Ann Marie Gideon) is solid and sympathetic on this night as doomed girlfriend Ophelia.
Georgia Shakespeare performs Wednesdays through Saturdays, and individual tickets range from $14.95 to $38.32 (or $44.96 on Saturdays).
The theater's 2014 season will offer Shakespeare lovers "As You Like It" and "Henry V," as well as noted English playwright Richard Bean's "One Man, Two Guvnors" and an adaptation of "The Frog Prince."
Julie McKenna, guest blogger for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (ACVB), is a journalism graduate of the University of Florida and lives in Atlanta. Her professional background is in corporate and internal communications, and she also teaches adult literacy programs. Jon McKenna, guest blogger for the ACVB, is an editor at a business webinar company in Atlanta and previously worked as a financial journalist. He lives with his wife, Julie, and their two children in Northeast Atlanta.