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I saw a production of Hamlet last night at CoHo Theater.

I suppose it's a commonplace to say that Shakespeare never gets old, but I realized, as I left the little warehouse-theater on my bike at 10:30, that I'd never seen Hamlet performed live, and had never seen any Shakespeare in a small, intimate space before, and so that commonplace became particular with me last night.

This was a "brisk, exciting new cut"--meaning that it was significantly abridged, with some minor-character compression. Three men and two women comprised the whole cast, with all but Chris Murray as Hamlet playing two or three roles apiece--without costume changes. There were no sets, only some stair-like levels of bare, black stage, and only a handful of props. (Yorick's skull was a big Tinker-Toy looking block of wood. The ghost was a rumbling sound effect and some recorded voices--and it was terrifying.)

Brittany Burch as Ophelia AND Laertes was so affecting as she switched back and forth in the grief-mad scene where both characters are on stage at the same time, that there was loud sniffling in the audience.

Valerie Stevens, who played Gertrude, also played a very funny Guildenstern, one of the guards, and one of the gravediggers--all in a red sleeveless sheath dress and thigh-high black leather boots, and each entirely distinct and vivid.

Victor Mack made Claudius seem so reasonable, you know? and was a hilarious frat-boy Rosencrantz.

Gary Norman's Horatio was somewhat lukewarm till the final scene (but then, Horatio is arguably a rather lukewarm character), but he played Polonius like a prosy Regency bore à la Mr Collins, and earned the evening's biggest laughs.

The only "real" props were the dagger that kills Polonius, and the fencing foils in the final scene. Swoosh! Clang! Clang! The fight was thrilling--I was about two feet from the stage and had to rear back in a couple of spots. The deaths were shocking. And Horatio's "Good night, sweet prince" speech made me cry and cry.

It's impossible to say how much of the emotion I felt was from the play proper, and how much arose from the sort of Bic-lighter-swaying, anthemic love of the great, familiar words.

Doesn't really matter. It was a wonderful experience.

This entry is cross-posted from DarkEmeralds on Dreamwidth.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 22nd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
I forget if I saw it on Netflix or YouTube, but Peter Hall's very-cut-down Hamlet with Adrian Lester is...ummm, interesting enough to repay viewing.
Jan. 22nd, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
I'll check it out. I love that you have a Hamlet icon.
Jan. 23rd, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
Stealth Shakespeare Icons
Arguably, a Harry Potter icon.

I deleted it during one of my "I am not giving those idiots at LJ any more money" phases, but I had a Mal/Simon icon with a Merchant of Venice act, scene and line number which, when looked up, would read "Now, by mine honor which is still my own, I'll have the doctor for my bedfellow."
Jan. 23rd, 2010 06:15 am (UTC)
Re: Stealth Shakespeare Icons
It's like bible-verse citations. Only Shakespeare!

I'm not grokking the HP connection to this pound of flesh reference. What am I missing?
Jan. 23rd, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Stealth Shakespeare Icons
Half-assed prince is Hamlet!Snape. The pound of flesh is just stealth Shakespeare, not Potter.
Jan. 23rd, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Stealth Shakespeare Icons
Oh! *slaps forehead* Duh.

Jan. 22nd, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
I had no luck finding a Peter Hall Hamlet in either location, though Adrian Lester did appear in Branagh's Hamlet. Darn. If you run across it again, let me know?
Jan. 23rd, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
Found it! I had the wrong director. Netflix, it's called "Hamlet By Brook/Brook by Brook".

Jan. 23rd, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Man, that sounds really good. I suddenly find myself wanting to go out and get me some culture.
Jan. 23rd, 2010 05:58 am (UTC)
When it's this good, it's easy to acquire. This was an accessible Hamlet that was still very classical. It was pretty awesome.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )



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