Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Article: Giving Up the Ghost

For New York Press. Here's a tease:

After much teeth-gnashing, I have come to realize that I cannot review—nor see, I guess—the Public Theater’s upcoming revival of Hamlet at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. To be clear, it’s not the casting that swells me with terror—certainly not with the stunningly gorgeous Lauren Ambrose playing Ophelia as a follow-up to her dazzlingly insightful Juliet in the Public’s Romeo and Juliet last year. And the idea of seeing the legendary Sam Waterston—who played the title role in the Public’s last Central Park revival of Hamlet over three decades ago—in the role of Polonius is undoubtedly going to be a thrill. And I can imagine what the stupendously gifted Michael Stuhlbarg, who devastated both the heart and the mind in Martin McDonagh’s play The Pillowman on Broadway a few seasons ago, will do with the title role.

But at the moment, I am acutely suffering from a medical condition caused by too many Hamlets. It’s true that there have always been too many Hamlets. In fact, if you look on the Internet Broadway Database, as I did in my research, you’ll see there have been no fewer than 64 productions of the play on Broadway alone, not to mention thematic variations like Tom Stoppard’s nifty Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet, which some say cures my illness better than tea.

But lately, my condition has gotten worse. I can hardly walk, talk, eat or sleep without a bit of Hamlet somehow crowding my thoughts. Last year, I had to see the Wooster Group’s Hamlet over at the Public Theater downtown, a fanciful multimedia homage to Richard Burton’s famous 1964 revival of the play. And then there was a straightforward Hamlet at off-Broadway’s Pearl Theatre Company, where an ensemble member named Sean McNall (who just won an Obie for his acting) took the demands of the Dane in stride. Then there was a piping-hot Hamlet delivered by the Gorilla Repertory Theater Company, which is mostly known for producing free Shakespeare in city parks during the summer; but for this show, they took things inside for a three-hour, no-intermission whack at the play. For that show, director Christopher Carter Sanderson, an old school chum of mine, openly encouraged the audience to simply walk in and out of the play-space between bathroom breaks or whenever boredom began bearing down. And then there was a Hamlet performed by the puppeteers of the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater on a carousel in Dumbo. Naturally.

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