Oh, What A Rogue And Pleasant Slave.

Last night, thanks to longtime (friend of the blog!) the lovely Ms. Jessica Shanks, I had the opportunity to see Jude Law in Hamlet, onstage at the Broadhurst Theater.  Here are a few thoughts:

Screw Chris Rock, I'm Hamlet.

Not having visited the play in some time now (after having seen Ralph Fiennes tread the boards, and then reading the play in high school and college) is how the play just holds up.  Yup, this Billy Shakespeare guy is onto something.  It floored me to consider the number of sheer phrases from the play that have infiltrated our culture:  A hit, a palabable hit!  The lady doth protest too much!  … the undiscovered country.  …Good night, sweet prince… I mean, I thought slipping “I drink your milkshake!” into the lexicon was enough for any writer.

I wrote the play. Alone. Seriously. Believe me!

Hamlet (author unknown), for any of you readers who didn’t do the smart thing and get a BFA in theater, is, of course, the hilarious, rollicking tale of a Danish guy’s descent into madness when he is visited by the ghost of his dead dad, who tells him his uncle, the new king, is shacking up with his mom.  (Little known fact: Recently occurred in an Arab kingdom.)  Hamlet goes c-r-a-z-y, as does his on-again, off-again, most-definitely-off-again-when-she-kills-herself-girlfriend, Ophelia.  This being Elizabethan (or, some would dispute, Jacobean) theatre, the bodies rack up along the way:  Hamlet accidentally murders Ophelia’s father Polonius!  Ophelia drowns herself after singing about flowers!  Hamlet’s mother Gertrude accidentally drinks poison!  Hamlet kills Ophelia’s brother Laertes in a duel!  Hamlet wounds his uncle Claudius and forces him to drink poison!  Hamlet himself dies, thus running any chance for a superhero franchise.  (Idiot.)

In the title role, Jude Law was quite excellent, visceral and accessible, with a fine command of the langague after a shaky start.  Did it rival his work in “My Blueberry Nights”?  No, but what does?  Seriously, he was a trmemendous Hamlet.  Here’s another excellent Hamlet, a pre-anti-Semitic Mel Gibson, on Monsterpiece Theatre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcc44UYrECA

As for the rest of the cast, the real standout is Ron Cook as Polonius, who almost steals the show (thank goodness Jude offs him).  Also good as the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father but better as the Player King was Peter Eyre, though why he felt the need to end his biography with the sentence, “Erye is American born.,” I don’t know.  (Suck it, Brits!)  The only true blunder in the cast is Gugu Mbatha-Raw (now there’s a stage name!) as Ophelia.  She’s shrill when she ought to be delicate, and there’s no descent into madness.  I mean, really, they couldn’t find a better English actress to descend into madness?  Isn’t that all they do?  I can only hope she once nannied Jude’s kids.  (Sorry, cheap shot.)

A brilliant play, of course, but I have one minor suggestion:  Everyone always assumes Hamlet ends with Horatio’s “Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angles sing thee to thy rest.,” but no: Fortinbras appears and tells results of the election of Poland, and the fate of Rosencranz and Guildenstern (who die in Poland, only not really ; they go on to star in a Tom Stoppard play.  Shoot, theatre humor.)  Bo-ring.  Cut it.

But, a minor quibble.  I leave you with these fine words of the Bard, including my favorite, the quintessence of dust:

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!  The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.”

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2 Responses to “Oh, What A Rogue And Pleasant Slave.”

  1. Angie Says:

    I am jealous! Agreed about Fortinbras, poor guy, he was probably feeling pretty good after successfully avenging his own father until he walked into the bloodbath…

  2. thiswaytotheegress Says:

    I can’t believe you’re reading this blog; you’re too good to me. Yeah, poor Fortinbras– hey, there’s the sequel!

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