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After a three-month run in London's West End and a few performances in the courtyard of Kronborg Castle near the real-life Elsinore -- it's actually Helsingor -- in Denmark, Hamlet has hit Broadway. The all-British cast has some easily recognizable faces, Kevin R. McNally as the usurper Claudius, whom you might recall from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and Ron Cook, most recently seen in BBC's Little Dorrit, as the oblivious Polonius. And, of course, Jude Law, with his turns in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, is the main draw as Hamlet himself.
The story is well-known and so are quite a few of the lines, but this production does not feel dreary and it's not very brooding either. In Polonius's words, it's something of a "tragical-comical" take. Despite being a famous tragedy, many of Shakespeare's wittier lines in the mouths of the actors cause laughter. And you can't help but laugh when Hamlet energetically mimes a crab or apes a gorilla or humps Polonius who he's mistaken for a fishmonger in his feigned madness. Besides the clear and passionate delivery, Law puts in an appropriately theatrical and very physical performance -- not only does he manage to look charming even from the mezzanine, he is certainly no slouch when it comes to acting.
The set is sparse and granite gray recalling a dungeon; the mood of the thing created by strategically beamed white and yellow lights. The costumes are simple, modern and, aptly, either a depressing black or gray. And it's not all fun and games -- there's also shocking violence and raw feeling. Actual gasps are heard when Hamlet hurls Gertrude (Geraldine James), his mother, to the floor and crouches astride her after a spot of murder in her bedchamber (though that may be caused by the Freudian urges). Then there's the famous line -- "Get thee to a nunnery!" -- which Hamlet shouts at Ophelia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with enough force to set your ears ringing as she cowers before him. It keeps reverberating even when Hamlet later weeps at her grave while professing love.
As the lights dim on a scene of slaughter, Hamlet is left cradled in the arms of Horatio (Matt Ryan), his "good friend." Draw from that what conclusions you will.
The play's 12-week run at the Broadhurst Theater, 235 W. 44th Street, NYC ends December 6, so you may want to "make haste." For more info, head here.
-- OLGA BAS
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