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Hamlet: Theater review by Helen Shaw
CSC Artistic Director Brian Kulick must have two wheels in his office: one marked “classics,” the other “celebs.” Spin the wheels, and sometimes you come up trumps—like A Month in the Country with Taylor Schilling—but elsewhere the result is a humiliating bust. When the Season-o-Matic put Peter Sarsgaard into Hamlet, it jammed an ill-prepared actor (with zero Shakespeare experience) into the canon's most demanding role, one that cruelly exposes those without a gift for verse. Sarsgaard tries hard; he shouts and gesticulates. But his attempts simply turn the lines into gabble.
To be fair, director Austin Pendleton's staging and textual cuts have already undermined the play's sense, which is recovered only by the cast's talented elders: Harris Yulin's exhausted Claudius, Penelope Allen's warm Gertrude and Stephen Spinella's fussy Polonius. Their palpable wisdom makes us wonder what the show could have been had a seasoned adviser, just like Polonius, sidled up to Sarsgaard long before this production hit the boards. “Peter,” he might have said, gently but quellingly, “Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star.”—Helen Shaw
Classic Stage Company (Off Broadway). By William Shakespeare. Directed by Austin Pendleton. With Peter Sarsgaard. Running time: 3hrs 20mins. One intermission.