Thursday, October 08, 2009

Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Not!

I'm always game for the Bard, but when you start hearing the reviews, it gives one pause. I was excited about Othello with Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Iago, only to learn that he sucks in the role. (Joel? How was the production? Was it indeed four hours of banging your head against the wall?)
Then comes Jude Law's Hamlet. Ben Brantley eviscerated the handsome Law in his review. It is a very good bad review. As much as I love the play, I really could not stand 4 hours of:
If Hamlet talks about his mind, you can bet that Mr. Law will point to his forehead; when he mentions the heavens, his arm shoots straight up; and when the guy says his gorge rises, rest assured that he clutches at his stomach. If every actor were like Mr. Law, signed performances for the hard of hearing would be unnecessary.
Shakespeare and his fabulous Dane deserve better. 
Just to show off a little bit with you, dears, I will say that I saw Ralph Fiennes' Hamlet and I liked him. He clocked in at 3 hours (places to go, people to see) yet you could hear every word loud and clear, with that sharp, beautiful timbre of his. He was just a tad impatient and very angry with the rotten Denmark. I saw him too in proto-Hamlet Richard II and he floored me (the play floored me, I had never seen it before).He went from a pompous moron of a spoiled narcissist to a man with a horrifying identity crisis. You could see the dissolution of the self onstage. I thought he was spectacular (but I do have a weakness for him. I love that he refuses to play nice for the audience).
I also saw Liev Schreiber kill as Iago in an otherwise blah Public Theater production. He was outstanding. Perfect. (My favorite Iago remains Kenneth Branagh's film turn in Othello with Lawrence Fishburne, a very decent version of the play).
However, Schreiber's Hamlet... major MEH. Mr. Ex-Enchilada and I ran into him on the street while he was rehearsing and Mr. Ex-Enchilada told him we were looking forward to seeing him in the role, and he said something to the effects of "piece of cake". We were so stunned that if he was being ironic, neither of us got it. Well, onstage it was instant karma. It all sucked.
Saw Ian McKellen as King Lear and thought he growled too much (we were alas, in the very last row, nosebleed section).
Shakespeare will humble the greatest.
So much to my chagrin, I think we are going to stick to the Shakespeare of our mind for the time being.

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