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"Hamlet" is Shakespeare's Everest, a bucket list mountain of a play that flummoxes many a would-be climber. But those who scale its heights etch their names in memory, especially at the Guthrie Theater.

Now there's a new man at the summit, and one who should proudly take his bows as he leaves his mark on the role. Michael Braugher, who trained at New York's Juilliard and is the son of famed actor Andre Braugher, headlines the Guthrie's 60th anniversary staging that opened Friday.

Braugher delivers with precision and aplomb in his exquisite turn. He goes from subtlety and finesse to exhilarating strength, and his skill makes speeches we all know sound fully embodied, vitally true and oh so fresh.

That clarity is due in no small part to director Joseph Haj's arresting interpretation. Haj and his creative team have combined sublime elegance with brutalism, both in terms of mores and architecture.

Trevor Bowen's costumes are smart, resplendent and altogether gorgeous. Gertrude (Regina Marie Williams) and Claudius (John Catron) may be unseemly usurpers but they have an enviable sense of style, with highly tailored couture outfits. The costumes and exits and entrances work seamlessly in part because of Robert Wierzel's sharp lighting design, which adds dimension to the play. Wierzel sometimes casts Hamlet in shadow, so he looks like a Roman orator beseeching us.

The action plays out on set designer Jan Chambers' brutalist balcony, which is suggestive of the type of stage where South American dictators liked to proclaim their rule. In fact, the proto-fascist motif is extended throughout the production, including in the assault weapons that the soldiers bear and the mien of the Ghost (David Whalen). Mustachioed with shades and a military officer's hat, he parades around the Guthrie stage as much as the specter of Hamlet's dad as he is the duppy of former Chilean leader Salvador Allende.

Haj's production is helped mightily by a creative choice that gives the show greater emotional amplitude. Composer and musician Jack Herrick picks from an array of instruments to play notes that correspond to the moments of the play, setting the mood and pushing the action forward.

The underscoring is not manipulative, overpowering or, often, even noticeable. It lifts you and carries you along almost operatically, save that the arias are all great speeches. There's only one moment when Herrick's on-point music is confusing, and that happens when Hamlet is muddled as he's talking to his mother and thinking about what to do about his uncle Claudius, who has killed his father and married her.

Haj uses the thrust stage expertly in this production, eliciting a raft of performances from his cast that deserves a chef's kiss. Catron shines as Claudius in what is a career watermark. He invests the king with grace and gravitas, and, even with a belief in his own goodness and grandeur.

Williams is impeccable as Gertrude, at once magisterial and pained. Her queen tempers her resolve with a conflicted mother's touch and she shows flashes of the pricks that stick in her soul.

Ray Dooley's Polonius is a font of levity, so much so that it deepens the pain of his demise.

The sole bifurcated turn in the production comes from Anya Whelan-Smith as Ophelia. The actor is gripping in the character's moments of grief but is merely competent instead of inspiring otherwise.

This "Hamlet" has manifestly strong design throughout. Darron West's sound design is full of complementary textures and colors. And Francesca Talenti's projections work efficiently, especially for the play-within-a-play.

The Guthrie has had a storied history with "Hamlet," famously launching in May 1963 with George Grizzard in modern dress as the wracked prince. The theater memorably closed its old playhouse on Vineland Place in 2006 with Santino Fontana's nuanced essaying of Hamlet.

With Haj's production, the theater is writing a gorgeous new chapter as Braugher builds his own magnificent monument.

Who: By William Shakespeare. Directed by Joseph Haj.
When: 10:30 a.m. Tue.-Thu., 7:30 p.m. Fri., 1 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., 1 and 7 p.m. Sun. Ends May 21.
Where: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.
Tickets: $20-$80, 612-377-2224 or