Villanova actor joins female Hamlet on Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre stage

By Aldonita Lane

Jason Greenfield as Laertes matches swords with Mary Tuomanen as Hamlet in a rehearsal for the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre production of “Hamlet.”

“Hamlet” lives on this spring at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. Starting on March 18 and running through May 4, audiences can enjoy actress Mary Tuomanen’s performance as the brooding hero of Shakespeare’s most renowned play.

That’s right, folks. The part of Hamlet will be played by a woman, and a talented one at that. But Tuomanen’s not the first actress to take on the role. A number of female performers have played Hamlet, including Sandra Bernhardt and Eve Donne. Undoubtedly, Hamlet is one of the few fictional characters who transcends gender and connects with audiences on a much deeper level.

The cast is rounded out by actors Ames Adamson (Claudius), John Little (Polonius), Victoria Rose Bonito (Ophelia), John Jarboe (Horatio), Amanda Grove (Gertrude), Dan Higbee (Gildenstern), Johnny Smith (Rosencrantz) and Villanova native Jason Greenfield, who stars as Laertes, Hamlet’s friend turned foe, whose resolve and quick action stand in sharp contrast to Hamlet’s fanatical deliberation and delaying of the inevitable.

Acting in a Shakespearean play is nothing new to Greenfield, whose repertoire includes roles in “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” But long before he set his sights on the theater, Greenfield was a student at William Penn Charter High School who spent most of his free time on the baseball field. It wasn’t until he was sidelined by a shoulder injury that he began to take more of an interest in the theater.

“I didn’t really discover acting until my sophomore year at college,” Greenfield says. In fact, he went on to receive his B.A. in theater from the University of Pennsylvania as well as an MFA from UCLA.

Just back from Los Angeles, Greenfield couldn’t be happier to be performing at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, which only began to exclusively feature Shakespearean works in 1996. In the past five years alone, the theater has presented “Macbeth,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” just to name a few of the plays that have managed to captivate theatergoers.

But the best is yet to come, and starting on April 7, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre will also be presenting “As You Like It” in repertory with Hamlet (in other words, “Hamlet” and “As You Like It” will be performed on alternate nights). This time, Mary Tuomanen will star as Rosalind and Jason Greenfield will play Orlando.

Tickets are $25 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, $35 on weekends, and $20 for previews. So whether you’re dying to see “Hamlet” or “As You Like It” or both plays, you won’t want to miss out on the 2011 season at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.