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  • AmericanTheaterWeb Original News & Reviews

  • Use the calendar above to find ATW News & Reviews for a specific day, or use the list to the right to go to a specific review or article. The site's updated 3-4 times a day generally. For you convenience, links below will take you to ATWTopNews (a quick listing of links to some of the day's top stories) and to ATWClips (the complete digest of the day's news from ATW).

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ATW News Digest - Public Theater 'Hamlet' opens in Central Park - read the reviews

AmericanTheaterWeb

Hamlet' in Central Park - Gearing Up For Youthful Rebellion

New York Times

Whips and Scorns of Time, Stinging All They Touch
As played by Michael Stuhlbarg, Hamlet is unavoidably watchable and on occasion quite entertaining, but never for an instant moving.

New York Daily News

Not-so-great Dane for 'Hamlet'
Can a show be both fevered and flat? Yes. That's clear in the Public Theater's high-strung but stubbornly uninvolving "Hamlet" in Central Park, writes Joe Dziemianowicz.

Newsday

Review: Public Theater's 'Hamlet' in Central Park
Oskar Eustis is doing a spectacular job as the head of the Public Theater. In the three years since he succeeded George C. Wolfe in the cauldron created in 1954 by Joseph Papp, the multiple theaters have been bursting with a breadth of interests, passions and intelligence.

New York Post

Hamlet and cheese
The most interesting Hamlets convey an air of mystery, of ambiguity, that keeps us guessing: Just how crazy is he? Sadly, there's no......

New York Sun

A 'Hamlet' With Bells, Whistles & Puppets

Star-Ledger

A worthy 'Hamlet'? Not to be
A terribly significant concept, a dreary leading man and a performance that lasts way over three hours reduces an outdoor staging of "Hamlet" to a butt- numbing experience.

Bergen Record

Review: 'Hamlet'
It’s hard to figure the “why” of the “Hamlet” that opened Tuesday night at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

Associated Press

An overly agitated Hamlet stalks the stage in Central Park

Back Stage

Hamlet reviewed by David Sheward
There is a manic excitement in this Hamlet's mercurial mood swings, but these flashes of fire fail to ignite his overall soggy, sobbing presence.

Variety

Review: Hamlet
Oskar Eustis' bloodless retelling of "Hamlet" awkwardly reshapes an intimate tale of death and revenge into one of political conflict and disillusionment with the military-minded ruling class. As reasoned as the interpretation may be, it dulls the melancholy human heart of the play -- a problem exacerbated by Michael Stuhlbarg's inconsistent characterization as the brooding Dane.

Bloomberg.com

Disastrous (If Funny) Hamlet Growls and Howls in Central Park: John Simon
Oskar Eustis's Central Park revival is the most misguided ``Hamlet'' I have ever seen. If there existed a booby prize for consummate demolition of Shakespeare, Eustis would win it hands down.

TheaterMania

Review: Hamlet
Michael Stuhlbarg gives a surprisingly hammy performance in Oskar Eustis' badly directed version of Shakespeare's most famous tragedy.

Talkin' Broadway

Review: Hamlet
When Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced her model for the Five Stages of Grief in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, she must have been foreseeing Michael Stuhlbarg's performance in the title role of the new production of Hamlet at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. . .

CurtainUp

Review: Hamlet

USA Today

Shakespeare in the Park gets a stylish celebration

Philadelphia Inquirer

An emotional Prince centers this 'Hamlet'
Shakespeare in the Park works its magic again. The play begins while it's still daylight, and when Marcellus, seeing the ghost of the King, cries out to Horatio, "Look, where it comes again!" everyone turned to look....

ATW Review: 'Hamlet' in Central Park - Gearing Up For Youthful Rebellion

Visually, aspects of Oskar Eustis' production of Hamlet, which opened last night at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, suggest that the action of Shakespeare's classic tragedy is taking place in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Hamlet's austere, yet sometimes sensitive, mother Gertrude (Margaret Colin) wears a simple dark wool suit (from costume designer Ann Hould-Ward). When the players, who will eventually stage the play-within-a-play that Hamlet (Michael Stuhlbarg) uses to convince himself that his father was murdered by his uncle Claudius (Andre Braugher), arrive, they look like a ragtag group that might have stumbled out of Vermont, all in plaids. The gigantic puppet that they carry as they arrive on the scene, and the ones that they later use to present their play (all designed by Basil Twist), bring to mind experimental work that might have been seen off and off-off Broadway in the mid 1960s.

The period for this production fascinates because the Public Theater's second production in the park this summer will be the musical that galvanized the city and the country, Hair. In it, the youth of America are taking an active stand against their government, its policies, and the society in which they've been raised. In this Hamlet, it almost feels as if Hamlet, who procrastinates wildly as he seeks revenge for his fathers death, along with Ophelia (Lauren Ambrose), and Laertes (David Harbour), are young people who want to rebel against the world in which they live, and yet cannot work up the nerve to actually do anything.

As audiences contemplate the undercurrents of a waning Eisenhower-like age in this Hamlet, they'll also be able to enjoy a host of exceptional performances that carry one through this lengthy (three hour and fifteen minute) show. Setting aside Stuhlbarg's performance in the title role for a moment, both Ambrose and Harbour delivery finely crafted performances of the two characters with whom Hamlet has grown up. Ambrose subtly hints at the gnawing sense that she doesn't need to obey her father, and shares a couple of incredibly steamy moments with Stuhlbarg's melancholy Dane. When madness descends on Ophelia, one senses that it comes not only from grief, but also from just sheer exhaustion from having to maintain a façade and demeanor contrary to her nature. Harbour's Laertes, who quickly snuffs a cigarette out so as to maintain appearances in front of the King, is Ophelia's antithesis. Here's a guy who's all about doing what's right. Additionally, Harbour imbues the character with a certain dumb lummox-ness that makes it evident why this character might thrive in the court of Elsinore.

Equally appealing is Braugher's turn as the man who's killed his brother and married his sister-in-law en route to the throne of Denmark. Braugher's Claudius has a smoothness and oiliness that one associates with a used-car salesman, but interestingly, he never allows the character to become overtly smarmy or particularly evil. This man is simply a slick operator who knows what he wants and how to achieve his ends. On many levels, it's easy to understand why Colin's upstanding, but rather ineffectual, Gertrude might fall for this man, not so much in love, but rather, in respect.

Sam Waterston, who now is a fixture on Law and Order, but once played the title role in this play in this theater, delivers a curious turn as this couple's loyal advisor, and Ophelia and Laertes' father, Polonius. Waterston seems determined to mask the hawk-like nature that they associate with his television character Jack McCoy, giving his voice a curious high pitch and underscoring certain aspects of the early senility from which Polonius seems to suffer. There are times this works marvelously: for instance, when Polonius completely loses his train of thought while talking with his daughter. Elsewhere, though, Waterston's performance can feel unduly gimmicky.

This is not true of Jay O. Sanders' work as the Gravedigger whom Hamlet meets (during which the "Alas poor Yorick…" speech is delivered). Sanders' portrayal of this rustic comic never feels forced. Sanders also plays the ghost of King Hamlet and the Player King of the play-with-a-play, and in each his work is filled with humanity, tinged with gravity.

Stuhlbarg's performance falls somewhere between Waterston's and Sanders' work. Initially, when the actor takes to the stage, placing a single red rose at the eternal flame at his father's grave (the set which evokes both a military bunker and a rocky promontory comes from designer David Korins), there's something almost majestic about Stuhlbarg and Hamlet's grief. As the play progresses, we see remnants of this regality and throughout there is a keen intelligence to Stuhlbarg's delivery of the verse.

At the same time, though, as Hamlet dives into his "madness" (and in Stuhlbarg's interpretation, one sense's that much of Hamlet's behavior is feigned), there is an antic quality to the work that seems over-the-top. At one point, a jig that Hamlet performs brings to mind Groucho Marx's Captain Spalding. To a certain extent, some of the excesses in Stuhlbarg's performance make sense; we see early on that Hamlet has the ability to shift his behavior to suit the moment when he first sees Horatio (Kevin Carroll). But, even given this, one can't help wish that Eustis might have helped Stuhlbarg to edit his performance.

Ultimately though, Eustis' production intrigues more often than not and is a fitting precursor to Hair, which incidentally was seen alongside Hamlet when the Public first opened its doors in 1967.

----Andy Propst

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Hamlet continues through June 29 at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. For performance schedule and information on obtaining free tickets, visit http://www.publictheater.org/.

ATW Review - Brits Off-Broadway Winds Down with 'Vincent', 'Bliss' and 'Hired Man'

Through the end of the month, theatergoers in New York have the chance to catch the last three entries in this year's Brits Off-Broadway Festival, 59E59 Theater's annual celebration of stagecraft from the U.K. The three productions at the theaters right now are terrific examples of the range of work that this Festival imports each year.

The most successful of the three productions on at 59E59 right now (and through June 29) is Philip Ridley's Vincent River, a two character drama that rivets from start to finish. Set in an essentially bare flat in East London, where Anita (Deborah Findlay) is moving following the brutal murder of her adult son, Vincent, Ridley's drama is something of a cat-and-mouse game between the grieving mother and Davey (Mark Field), a seventeen year-old who has been watching Anita's movements ever since her son was killed. It turns out that he was the person who discovered the corpse in a public lavatory used by gay men as a cruising ground. Davey's been watching Anita attempting to work up the courage to learn a bit more about the man he discovered.

As you might imagine, there's more going on with Davey than meets the eye and the interdependence that forms between Anita and Davey early on and the ways in which they coax information and secrets out of one another is at the heart of this drama that consistently fascinates as it unfolds over an exhilarating 85 minutes.

Under the direction of Steve Marmion, Findlay and Field turn in two meticulously crafted performances. Early on Findlay deftly combines maternal caring with blind fury born from her grief. Though Anita softens somewhat during her encounter with Davey (thanks to copious amounts of gin and a few puffs on a joint), Findlay's performance never loses its edge. Similarly, Field delivers a performance that seems to vibrate with nervousness throughout, which builds with progressive intensity to the play's climactic moments.

Ridley's play and the performers' work is beautifully underscored by Aaron Spivey's sensitive lighting design, which slowly takes these characters who are seeking illumination from the brightness of mid-afternoon into the dimness of twilight.

Samuel Adamson's Some Kind of Bliss is a play with no fewer chilling details. This solo show follows a journalist, Rachel (Lucy Briers) on one momentous day as she travels to the South London home of 1960s pop sensation Lulu.

Rachel's journey, from the comfortable home that she shares with her oh-so-accommodating husband, takes her through some of London's less desirable neighborhoods, some of which were her stomping grounds as a child, when she was being cared for by her gay rocker uncle Stevie. Unfortunately, Rachel's travels also put her in harms way more than once, yet somehow, the dangers she encounters invigorate her, shaking her out of her marriage, which, though not unhappy, is discomforting to her more bohemian nature.

Rachel's trek unfolds within scenic designer Lucy Osborne's stylish environment – a crisscross of wooden walkways and a steep ramp, which are lit with atmosphere and care by Stephen Holroyd. Under the direction of Tobu Frow, Briers not only brings Rachel's willfulness, insecurities, and pent-up frustration to life with aplomb, but also a host of other characters, such as a childhood incarnation of Rachel, her flamboyant uncle and her staid, and always chipper, husband.

The third, and most ambitious offering, that's closing out this year's "Brits" festival is a revival of The Hired Man, a musical from Melvyn Bragg (book) and Howard Goodall (music and lyrics).

Set in the years before, during and after World War I, "Man," adapted from Bragg's novel of the same name, focuses on a group of hired farm laborers in rural England and their struggles to survive as they work the land. The musical centers on three brothers, ne'er-do-well Isaac (Stuart Ward), labor organizer Seth (David Stothard) and family man John (Richard Colvin), who's married to the free-spirited Emily (Claire Sundin).

Part earnest family drama, part historical pageant and part social and political commentary, "Man" is a sweeping piece, but its disparate parts never coalesce into a satisfying whole. For instance, Bragg and Goodall build the first act of "Man" to John's realization that Emily has had an affair with Jackson (Simon Pontin), another worker on the farm at which they've been hired. But the creators allow us to see very little of Emily and Jackson's interaction. Instead, they offer up damning commentary on the system which reduces these characters to near-slaves working in deplorable conditions.

After intermission, when the action has shifted forward some 15 years, not only is John and Emily's marriage still intact, they've had another child. During this half of "Man," the couple will make cursory comments about their early life together, but we never learn how the marriage survived. Instead, the authors offering a lengthy, and politically charged, sequence that details Isaac and John's experiences in the trenches in Europe, and a bleak portrait of what life is like for the men who have shifted from tilling the soil to digging in the mines off the coast of England.

Throughout, it's impossible to not be swept away by aspects of Bragg's story and by segments of Goodall's rich and melodically diverse score, but one never feels completely drawn in by the drama at hand or the highly politicized portrait of the lives the characters led nearly 100 years ago.

Director Daniel Buckroyd has done a shrewd job in staging the piece using just an eight-person ensemble, but he has elicited an uneven array of performances from his company. Colvin and Pontin are particularly impressive as John and Jackson, respectively, as is Katie Howell, who plays John's teenage daughter in the second half of "Man." Unfortunately, Sundin offers a wooden performance as Emily, and Lee Foster's work as John's teen son borders on caricature.

Juliet Shillingford's unit set is remarkably flexible and beautifully evokes the countryside milieu of the piece, and Richard Reeday's musical direction for piano and incidental instruments (played by company members) admirably serves up Goodall's ambitious score.

What's most impressive about "Man" is its presence in the Festival at all. This is the first musical that has been presented at Brits Off-Broadway, and while it's not always satisfying, this vest-pocket production, presented without amplification, alongside these two dramas and the previous five entries, affords New Yorkers a terrific snapshot of theater from the U.K.'s off-West End and Fringe Theaters.

--- Andy Propst

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Brits Off-Broadway continues through June 29 at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street). For further information and ticketing, visit www.britsoffbroadway.com.

ATW News Digest - ''Tis Pity She's a Whore' opens in S.F. - read the reviews

San Francisco Chronicle

'Tis pity star-crossed lovers are siblings

San Francisco Examiner

Review: Jacobean sex and revenge, plus a punk cellist
Even after almost 400 years after its first performance, there is a problem with the title of John Ford's play. American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Carey Perloff, whose production of it opened Wednesday, took a direct approach.....

San Jose Mercury News

'Pity' skewers conventional assumptions

Contra Costa Times

Review: Familiarity breeds some contempt in "'Tis Pity"

Chad Jones' Theater Dogs Blog

Review: `’Tis Pity She’s a Whore’
ACT slices into harsh, bloody revenge play

OMG You Guys! 'Legally Blonde' in July

This just in....

It's a 'Blonde' Summer BLOWOUT!!!

Legally Blonde The Musical

Sunday, July 20th at 7pm:
Laura Bell Bundy, Broadway's original Elle Woods, will play her final performance

Monday, July 21st at 10pm:
Finale of "Legally Blonde The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods" airs on MTV

Wednesday, July 23rd at 8pm:
The winner of the reality show begins performances at The Palace Theater in NYC

Over the course of four days this summer, July 20-23, LEGALLY BLONDE THE MUSICAL celebrates three major events. Stand-out performer and Tony Award Nominee, Laura Bell Bundy (the original Elle Woods) will play her final performance on Sunday, July 20 at 7pm, the Finale of MTV's "Legally Blonde The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods" will air on Monday, July 21 at 10pm and Broadway's next Elle Woods will begin performances at The Palace Theatre on Wednesday, July 23 at 8pm.