REVIEW of Bedlam’s HAMLET
--by Brent Buell
Call me uncultured, but truth
be told, I was getting tired of Shakespeare.
It seems like this season everyone is honoring the Bard, and that’s
great—but really? Again?
And then a miracle happened
opening night (Nov. 19) at the Lynn Redgrave Theater on Bleecker Street in NoHo:
The Bedlam Theater presentation of HAMLET.
Oh . . my . . god. My fellow
satiated and cynical New Yorkers, you think you have seen everything—and then
you see these four astonishing actors create every moment of the world’s most
famous play—and you feel like you’ve never seen it or anything like it
While honoring the text of
Shakespeare’s masterwork, these genius inventors of theater (and that is what
they are) have so happily understood the words, so thoroughly relished the
complexities of plot and so freshly looked at how this 400 year old play fits
today’s world—that something entirely new happens.
It’s not that they have changed the play to make it “relevant,” or
tried to do a lot of bells and whistles to make us “gee wow.”
No, they have immersed themselves in the wonder of the master—and
without a hint of fake reverential intonation (something available wholesale
these days), have gleaned the excitement and humor (who knew?) that has always
been there, usually hidden.
It seems impossible that four
people could reenact HAMLET and have any audience—no matter how astute and
familiar with the play—follow anything. But
follow it we do. As Andrus Nichols
instantly transforms herself from Gertrude to Ophelia and back again, as Edmund
Lewis brings us Polonius, Horatio and a host of other characters, or as Tom
O’Keefe morphs from Claudius to a nervous servant and back again—we, the
audience are always firmly rooted in the story.
And even though theatrical magic is happening before our eyes, we remain
unaware of that artistry because we are living and breathing every heartbeat
with Eric Tucker’s HAMLET.
Hamlet’s great soliloquies
come to life—and where in some productions I’m tempted to repeat them word
for word in my head, in this production I felt the authenticity and sincerity of
them to such an extent that I forgot that I knew them, and just experienced them
with all their emotional impact and sense of discovery.
I loved the fact that Bedlam
allows us to have a good time amidst greatness—while never mocking, never
cheapening the play. The Lynn
Redgrave theater is reconfigured for each act—with the audience sometimes
facing the back of the theater, sitting on the stage, or surrounding it.
But it is never just for being “different.” Bedlam accomplishes an immersion of the audience in the
action of the play. The appearance
of the ghost is actually frightening—and there are times that one would swear
that there was a cast of twenty surrounding every side.
(I will admit that sitting on the front row during a sword fight afforded
me a kind of terror that the lead car of the Cyclone Racer has given me many
times). Let me say it again.
When you are in the audience, you live HAMLET.
This is the same company with
the same four actors who are also performing George Bernard Shaw’s ST. JOAN
every alternate night. There too
the text is the thing—but as many times as I’ve seen Shaw’s play, it was
as thought I had never seen it before.
Understudy Samatha Steinmetz
appears in several scenes most usefully, and I don’t want to leave her out.
Tickets at: http://www.theatrebedlam.org/#!stage/c8ui
The Lynn Redgrave Theater
45 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
HAMLET is directed by Eric Tucker who plays the title character (another astonishing feat).
Scenic Design: John McDermott
Lighting Design: Les Dickert
Fight Choreographer: Trampas Thompson
Dramaturg: Katherine Goodland
Assistant Scenic Designer: Clifton Chadick
Assistant Lighting Designer: Juliana Beecher
Master Electrician Will Hansen
Production Stage Manager: Katherine Whitney
Assistant Stage Manager: Rachel Esther Tate
General Management: Perry Street Theatricals (David Elliott and Martin Platt)
Associate General Manager: Jennifer Pluff