Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hamlet Gets The Shock Treatment

In The Wooster Group's trippy, tripped up production of Hamlet, currently playing at The Public, Shakespeare's greatest play is deconstructed into bits of visceral video lunacy. The result is compelling, confusing and as haunting as a freshly murdered monarch. Ultimately delivering a boldly visual, headbanging feast of experimental theater, the sheer bravery of this production is an informed achievement that occasionally veers into brilliance. While it may not completely satisfy, this disconcerting and challenging work acts as a thorn in the side of the NYC theater-goers psyche.

Juxtaposed against a backdrop of Richard Burton's 1964 filmed portrayal of the tragic prince, with characters digitally erased and technical glitches enhanced, the agile cast mirrors the screen in an odd start-and-stop choreography that is at once beautiful and as grating as nails on a chalkboard. But then, that is the point. Through the lens of legendary director Elizabeth LeCompte, in this world that Hamlet inhabits - where the revenge-obsessed dead claw the earth and mothers bed their bloodstained brothers-in-law - it is perfectly normal to have the tape of reality rewound, sliced and sped up to warp speed. Unfortunately, it also means that the humanness of Hamlet's pain, like his terror at mistakenly killing his beloved Ophelia's father and her resulting madness, is at times muddied and hidden beneath layers of directorial constraint.

Yet in the hands of this cast, particularly the beyond-brilliant Scott Shepherd as the prince and the double duty Gertrude/Ophelia turn by Kate Valk, the majority of Shakespeare's poetry is delivered with a grace that paradoxically grabs the throat. Ultimately, in the hands of the Wooster masters, this ghost in the machine production illuminates Shakespeare's musings on this mortal coil with a daring that shouldn't be missed. Extended through Dec. 2 at the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette St., just below Astor Place.

1 comment:

Promotional Items said...

I would love to see this, thanks for posting!