History tells us that Shakespeare himself played the ghost in Hamlet's world premiere. Maybe Will knew something the rest of us don't---the specter has the best lines.
Thu Apr 2 2009
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
History tells us that Shakespeare himself played the ghost in Hamlet's world premiere. Maybe Will knew something the rest of us don't—the specter has the best lines. That seems to be the case with Theatre for a New Audience's take on this overproduced classic. In David Esbjornson's slick yet sleepy production, Hamlet Sr.'s one-and-a-half scenes are the choicest bits. The rest is unfocused and dully familiar.
When the sulfurous shade appears, Esbjornson projects a blue grid onto his glossy-black playing space and Jonathan Fried adopts a rock-star attitude. The actor's face and hair are dusted white, he sports a pale trench coat, and a body mike puts reverb on his growl. Masked demons in black bodysuits crouch behind the spook, eager to drag him away. "Take me, too!" you want to yell. We've seen too many Hamlets to be impressed by this modern-dress, abstract-minimalist approach, which offers scant thrills or insights. Christian Camargo is handsome and brooding enough for the title role, but his merely adequate readings of the great soliloquies unfold into a dramatic vacuum. Casey Biggs's Claudius does the requisite pawing of Gertrude, Tom Hammond is yet another staunch Horatio, and Jennifer Ikeda proves that no contemporary actor can pull off Ophelia's mad scenes. As Polonius, the venerable Alvin Epstein is darling but uninspired. Even if you've never seen a Hamlet, I'd hesitate to recommend this one, due to Esbjornson's cuts and slight shuffling of scenes. Either wait for a by-the-book RSC tour, or a high-concept risk-taker. Life is too short for anything in between.