Eric Hissom is emotionally erect. (Carol Pratt/courtesy Folger)
By the power vested in him by nothing more than his wildly protruding ego, Cyrano de Bergerac runs a blowhard actor off the stage at rapier point. So begins the Folger Shakespeare Library’s sparkling and soulful new adaptation of the romantic classic, and of all the outlandish scenarios it demands that leading man Eric Hissom imagine, this might be the most farfetched: As Cyrano, the guardsman of uncommon cheek and uncanny beak, a genius almost as fast with a sword as he is with a quip, Hissom is so effortlessly charming and authoritative it seems impossible he could ever find himself staring down a hostile audience.
He’s so good, in fact, you almost can’t believe that this Cyrano’s inconveniently 3D schnoz would much impede him in romance. But of course, the pickle he finds himself in ultimately has nothing to do with the fleshy cucumber sticking out under his eyes. For Cyrano, the rub is his lack of confidence that he’ll persuade his second cousin Roxane to see beyond her—uh, his—nose, an eloquent and enduring metaphor for the self-doubt that can cripple even the most capable among us. Continue reading
“Cast thy nighted color off,” Hamlet’s mom Gertrude, hastily remarried to his fratricidal uncle Claudius, begs of her mournful son. She might have been speaking to Joseph Haj, director of the Folger’s slick and unencumbered new gloss on what we’re used to thinking of as the Bard’s most psychologically complex play.
James Kronzer’s blocky, all-white set offers the first clue of what we’re in for, a visual metaphor for the production’s clean simplicity. Elsinore? Try Apple Store. Deposed King Hamlet’s ghost (a suitably traumatized Todd Scofield) has scarcely begun lobbying his son for vengeance before we see it isn’t just the castle that Haj and star Graham Michael Hamilton have lifted from the shadows: It’s the once-overgrown psychological landscape of the melancholy Prince himself.
Clear-cutting decades or centuries of accumulated inference — Hamlet’s Oedipal lust for Gertrude, his existential disdain of action for action, his self-awareness as a participant in a fiction — this feels like Hamlet for beginners, but that’s no slight. Unburdened of contradiction and played almost as a straight-ahead potboiler — close as it can be without cutting out Hamlet’s iconic half-dozen soliloquies, anyway — the show feels fresh, like a revelatory solo acoustic take of a song you’d thought you could never stand to hear again. Continue reading
Whaddaya mean I’m two years too late for a Borat joke?
This still from Aaron Posner’s brilliant new staging of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at the Folger wouldn’t make me want to run out and see it, really. But I hope my DCist review will inspire you to do just that. Best thing I’ve seen on a stage in 2009, certainly, and probably going back a goodly while earlier than that. Run, don’t walk.
What, you want more? Okay. Review proper begins after the jump.