Saturday, March 25, 2023
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Hamlet - Gold's Folly

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Are we at The Public Theater or La Mama or some Greek amphitheater to witness the revenge tragedy of Hamlet starring Oscar Isaac (scampering around barefoot in his black undies and tee shirt) with a mixed bag of supporting players including a cellist (Ernst Reijseger) supplying odd and mournful background musical accompaniment for the cast who sometimes portray multiple characters with confounding results skewered with a slew of accents not spoken so trippingly on the tongue or at a celebration of the undisputed talents of Sam Gold?

In the intimate arena-like Anspacher space where the in demand, imaginative and willing-to-try-just-about-anything director of the moment Sam Gold reigns it is both. With an emphasis on Gold’s experimental ego. One might even call Hamlet - Gold’s Folly. Not everything works in this minimalist long drawn out almost four hour almost impossible to get a ticket version which runs through September 4th.

One of Gold’s better ideas is having Ritchie Coster portray the Ghost of Hamlet’s father and Claudius his uncle - who after killing Hamlet’s dad has married Gertrude (Charlayne Woodard) his mother. A rather bland Ms. Woodard dressed in a purple lounging-pajamas-of-sorts outfit appears uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the mules she is wearing fearing they might slip off at any moment? Perhaps she is attempting to decipher what Claudius is saying?

One of his not so great ideas is having Ophelia (Gayle Rankin) in full Antigone mode burying Polonius with buckets of soil (Peter Friedman – one of the only actors aside from Isaac to come out smelling like roses) and then taking a garden hose bath simulating her drowning and then cuddling up next to him AND THEN BOTH becoming the muddied Gravediggers – in what is probably the most successful scene in this drawn out folly giving new meaning to “here’s mud in your eye.”

Then there is Polonius pontificating on his bathroom throne with his pants around his ankles that not everyone is privy to seeing due to the sightlines. This is where the hose is hooked up to a sink that creates lots of mud on stage that got me thinking about Stanley Steemer as my mind wandered during this hodge-podge production where an over-the-top Play Within a Play has Keegan-Michael Key (AKA Horatio) having a drawn out inappropriate albeit comical in the extreme demise.

Oscar Isaac does himself and I am sure Mr. Gold proud in this marathon role. He is best at being mad. There really is a method to his madness. Although after the second intermission (allowing patrons to empty their swelling impatient bladders) he becomes a bit long winded with some mighty monotonous sounds being emitted as we eagerly await the tragic denouement of revenge.

Unfortunately the play is not the thing here. Sam Gold is. A simple case of murder most foul.

Photo: Carol Rosegg