Colonna brings Shakespeare to Roger Williams National Park

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Bob Colonna has been bringing Shakespeare to the masses for as long as anyone can remember.

I remember the early days of the Young Rhode Island Shakespeare Theatre when he rehearsed his young cast in the parking lot of Edgewood Congregational Church, gathering crowds of neighbors on warm summer nights.

He’s still doing it. And he does it for free. This time Colonna is directing a troupe of new and experienced actors in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

All the world’s a stage, so why not the Roger Williams National Memorial Park on Providence’s North Main Street. From now until June 17 you can catch one of the Bard’s greatest hits every Thursday through Sunday night at 8 p.m. The park makes a perfect setting, with a picnic table and park bench all the sets needed.

There were about 50 people in the audience the night I caught the play. They brought chairs and blankets and bags of potato chips and pizzas. People walking by stopped to watch, some drawn into the action and finding a scattered chair or picnic table to sit on.

The play starts as it gets darker and darker and a simple set of lights is all that is needed. The actors speak their lines loudly enough for all to hear, being occasionally drowned out by passing motorcycles.

The play is done in modern dress, with actors appearing from out of the darkness.

Rudy Sanda makes an impressive Hamlet. Kerstyn Desjardin plays Ophelia,Chris Perrotti is Claudius, and veteran F. William Oakes gives a rousing “To thine own self be true” speech as Polonious. effrey Ouelette makes an imposing Ghost, while the rest of the cast, some more experienced than others, provide a good interpretation of the classic play.

It’s an enjoyable evening in the park. And it’s free!

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