Friday, June 13, 2008

Lauren Ambrose, Get Thee To a Nunnery!

"dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia"

<--- This photo is from Shakespeare in the Park's Romeo & Juliet last year (which I loved) but I'm pretending it's from the 2008 Shakespeare in the Park season which is offering up Hamlet. Lauren Ambrose is featured for the second year in a row and this photo is still appropriate because, as you know, Ophelia does get all tragically water-logged by play's end.

My short take on Hamlet as a play: It's an impossibility to find a perfect Hamlet. The role has too many problems or, too be more specific, there are too many ways to play it, none of which turn out hugely satisfying unless the performer is dexterous enough to allude to the several other ways of playing it whilst also making it his own. So I didn't like this Hamlet (Michael Stuhlbarg last seen by moi in the superb Broadway play Pillow Man) who started the mammoth play with his performance turned up to 11. How could be possibly sustain it? (pssst. he didn't. Why not build rather than start out all thunderous?)

The play had other problems. Margaret Colin was an odd or insufficient Gertrud... or maybe it's the way this thing was directed. The Gertrud bedroom scene (the one where Hamlet stabs Polonius) was just terrible. His dead body lays on the bed and Gertrud acts like she isn't even freaked out by her murdered subject and Hamlet never once seems guilty about the stabbing, even mocking Polonius in his death... and isn't Hamlet always second guessing himself? Shouldn't there be guilt?

This free Hamlet, which also stars Sam Waterston, David Harbour and Andre Braugher runs until June 29th in Central Park. Good luck getting tickets.

Anyway. Lauren Ambrose continues to be as delicious onstage as she was for the entirety of Six Feet Under on television. Perhaps this was no revelatory Juliet but she made a fine Ophelia which leads me to my other insurmountable problem with productions of Hamlet: There's just never enough Ophelia ... sweet sweet Ophelia. That's Shakespeare's fault!

Do you have a favorite Hamlet? How many productions / movie versions have you seen?
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7 comments:

thombeau said...

Because of her work on Six Feet Under, I am deeply in love with Lauren Ambrose. Truly, madly, deeply.

Glenn said...

How she never won a single non-ensemble award for Six Feet Under is beyond me.

NATHANIEL R said...

it'd be beyond me too but for the certain knowledge that the EMMYs are laughable.

Lynsey said...

Oh man, not just for Six Feet Under but for, and yes I know I am completely lame, Can't Hardly Wait as well. My Lauren adoration started early and I must admit I am thoroughly jealous of anyone who can rustle up tickets to what sounds like an amazing show.

The Liz said...

I gotta say, I really thought her Ophelia was lacking. She didn't seem to understand what she was saying after she went nuts. Her performance really didn't do it for me. At least she was better than Learties.

That said, I thought the production was fantastic. Especially the [SPOILER] reinterpretation of the end where Fortenbras kills Horatio. Was not expecting that one!

NATHANIEL R said...

really? I mean.

agreed about the ending but i didn't like the production much. The puppet usage was brilliant but otherwise I thought the directors ideas were either too diffuse or too many.

I thought the casting was distracting, too. I'm for color blinding casting unless you place people in roles in which there's a lot of dialogue about their 'black hearts' and 'dark' whatevers and then it just feels like an uncomfortably obvious comment on racism (which has nothing to do with the play) or unintentionally racist itself (which has nothing to do with the play).

I thought Gertrud (Margaret Colin) and Claudius (Andre Braugher) gave the worst performances and Polonius (Sam Waterston) the best.

Maile said...

I fell in love with Lauren Ambrose after seeing the first few episodes of Six Feet Under. I believe she is an incredible versatile actress and her performance in Ophelia was brilliant. She was the only actor on the stage whom I felt truly connected with. Her emotion moved me in every scene she was in (which was far too few...silly Shakespeare). I thought the other actors (even Sam Waterston, whom I usually love) to be either too dull or too extravagant.

Even if you don't like Lauren Ambrose, I suggest seeing the show just for the puppetry, which was truly spectacular.