Fans of William Shakespeare and/or naked people may recall that a local company called Torn Out Theater made news last year with an all-nude, all-female production of The Tempest. From August 10 through August 13, the same troupe will further explore the Bard's body of work with a naked all-male staging of Hamlet.
As has been widely reported, Oscar Isaac takes off his pants but keeps his underwear on in the current Hamlet at the Public Theater. Torn Out Theater's version will go whole hog—the better, the company says, to "continue the debate about body freedom and empowerment." The production was partly inspired by reactions to The Tempest, which pointed up how much more comfortable audiences seemed to be with female nudity than with male. “Hamlet seemed like the perfect play to address these issues,” says artistic director Alice Mottola. “It’s the story of a man searching for honesty. Hamlet risks everything to reveal the truth about his family, his nation and himself.”
It remains to be seen how naturally the text will lend itself to naturism, but a few possibilities pop right out. When the fussy Polonius advises that "The apparel oft proclaims the man," for instance, his lack of costume will surely be felt. And then there is this exchange from later in the play, when King Claudius reads a letter from Hamlet warning him that the vengeful prince is on his way back to Denmark (having dispensed with the treacherous Rosencrantz and Guildenstern):
"High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on
your kingdom. Tomorrow shall I beg leave to see
your kingly eyes: when I shall, first asking your
pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my sudden
and more strange return. Hamlet."
What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?
Know you the hand?
'Tis Hamlet's character. "Naked!"
And in a postscript here, he says "alone."
Too squeamish to see naked guys cross swords in a public park? Then get thee to—well, okay, if not a nunnery then at least to one of the many other options for free outdoor theater in New York. If your curiosity is piqued, however, head to the Prospect Park Music Pagoda at 5:30pm on August 10, 11 and 12 or at 2pm on August 13.
Arrive early if you want good seats.
RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Shakespeare in the Park