“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
Sorry this got held back a week, Molotov Folk, but my City Paper review of Mondo Andronicus is here.
Francesca Faridany’s Rosalind and John Behlmann’s Orlando.
All the world’s a stage, except when it’s a film set.
The Shakespeare Theatre’s new production of As You Like It, the philosophizing romantic comedy set largely in a curative mystical forest, has adopted the trappings of an altogether different wood, one that no one ever accused of being good for you. (That’d be the one that starts with Holly.) The show begins ingeniously as a flickering silent film with title cards, but quickly assumes the props and types of a modern movie shoot, with boom-mic operators and cameramen and headset-wearing production assistants scurrying between scenes. We even hear Ted van Griethuysen growl “Cut!” now and again. Continue reading
Amy Quiggins as Ofelia.
Years ago, when he started making movies in the United States, the great director of Hong Kong action films John Woo enumerated in an interview the many similarities between the brand of hyperkinetic shoot-‘em-ups in which he specialized, and musicals.
There’s nothing that revealing in director/fight choreographer Casey Kaleba’s production of playwright/fight choreographer — you begin to see the problem — Qui Nguyen’s Living Dead in Denmark, which picks up the story of Hamlet 1,828 days later. Elsinore has been overrun by zombies, and the self-slaughtering Ofelia (a limber Amy Quiggins) finds herself, like Jean Grey, mysteriously resurrected. Continue reading
To be, or not to be. That is the . . . point?
Mayhaps. Every script goes through revisions. The script of a play — Hamlet, say — that predates copyright law, and that was often scribbled down as it was performed and passed around in incomplete or inaccurate transcripts, could diverge in innumerable directions, like a game of telephone (albeit 280 years before the telephone). ‘Twasn’t until 1623, seven years after William Shakespeare’s death, that two of his former colleagues in the King’s Men compiled reliable versions of 36 of his plays in what’s now referred to as the First Folio.
In his absorbing experiment Bad Hamlet, playwright/producer John Geoffrion pares Shakespeare’s longest play to its most iconic scenes, but stages it in a kind of binary format, with the First Folio version and an earlier version attributed to 1603 performed simultaneously. Continue reading
Alex Mills as Puck. Photo by Ray Gniewek.
Elvis Costello: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” (Attribution apocryphal.)
Bob Christgau: “One of the many foolish things about the fools who compare writing about music to dancing about architecture is that dancing usually is about architecture. When bodies move in relation to a defined space, be it stage, ballroom, living room, gymnasium, agora, or congo square, they comment on that space whether they mean to or not.” (Attribution solid. He was sitting four feet from me when he said it.)
Klimek: “Oh, crap. This play is actually a dance show.”
Suzanne Bertish and Andrew Long as the titular star-crossed lovers in Antony and Cleopatra. Photo by Carol Pratt.
Either because I am remarkably prolific or because I am distressingly lazy, my reviews of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Antony and Cleopatra and of the X/Detroit Cobras double-bill at the 9:30 Club last Wednesday ended up on DCist the same day. The Friday preceeding Memorial Day weekend, in fact. Given that I posted them both after lunchtime, I’m confident that tens and tens of people read both trenchant works of art criticism.
Happy Memorial Day, everybody.
X: Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, Jon Doe, and D.J. Bonebrake, pictured sometime well in advance of their current 31st anniversary tour.
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Tagged political intrigue, Rome, Shakespeare