BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#1
Posted: 8/29/18 at 1:54pm

Previews for the world premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Bernhardt/Hamlet begin in just a few days (Friday, August 31, 2018) at the American Airlines Theatre. Starring Janet McTeer as Sarah Bernhardt, Bernhardt/Hamlet is set to open on Tuesday, September 25 for a limited run currently through Sunday, November 18.

Who's going?!

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#2
Posted: 8/29/18 at 3:58pm

Going Saturday night.  Really looking forward to it.

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#3
Posted: 8/29/18 at 5:31pm
I managed tickets snag Acess10 tix to the first preview! Will report back. I canít say Iím optimistic, given Roundaboutís recent track record - especially with plays. But I have an open mind. McTeer is great, and Iím interested in the subject matter.,
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#4
Posted: 8/29/18 at 6:47pm
Going Friday night. Caustiously optimistic.
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#5
Posted: 8/29/18 at 7:02pm

I'm going to check this out next weekend. I think it sounds interesting.

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#6
Posted: 8/29/18 at 7:12pm

Anyone going on Friday, please report back afterwards. Debating slotting this in for Saturday night, but if it doesn't seem cooked, then I'll reconsider.

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#7
Posted: 8/31/18 at 11:41am

Anyone know if there was an invited dress last evening?

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#8
Posted: 8/31/18 at 10:10pm
Bump!
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#9
Posted: 8/31/18 at 11:13pm

Saw the first preview tonight.

Obviously McTeer is wonderful, and the scenes where she’s onstage are the best. Her Bernhardt is the queen of deflecting criticism, and it’s hilarious and exciting to watch.

The play has some good moments, but it gets tiresome. So much of it is just analytical discussion about Hamlet, which was alright for me because I love Hamlet and I found the discussions interesting, but after a while I started to feel like it was diluting the actual drama. And when, in act 2, they show us full scenes from Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostand is a major character in the play), I really began to feel like Rebeck was using the work of others as a crutch. And of course, we get the feminist angle, which is perfectly appropriate for the subject matter, but we really get beaten over the head with it.

The best scenes are of Bernhardt in rehearsal, struggling to grasp the part of Hamlet. She wanders through different scenes and monologues, rehearsing them out of order with the other actors as the mood strikes. It’s a marvelous portrayal of an actor trying to get inside the head of a character, a process which involves delving inside her own head as well. And we get to see her be funny but vulnerable, intelligent but lost. But unfortunately, too little of the play is actually made up of these moments.

At the end of the day, I feel like this play should be called “Rebeck/Bernhardt/Hamlet”

The audience tonight seemed to really enjoy it though, so I don’t know. And I did think there were lots of funny parts throughout. And the design elements are lovely. I didn’t hate it but I feel like it could have been so much better.

Updated On: 8/31/18 at 11:13 PM
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#10
Posted: 9/1/18 at 12:01am

Could you share some insight as to the staging -- I was told that they removed several seats in the front row for "design elements"?

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#11
Posted: 9/1/18 at 12:13am
I thought there was more feedback of the first preview, but as I scrolled down it was just LimeLight Mikeís theater plans for 2011...
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#12
Posted: 9/1/18 at 12:36am

LimelightMike said: "Could you share some insight as to the staging -- I was told that they removed several seats in the front row for "design elements"?"

 

The set is on a revolve, which is used nicely. The edge of the stage is curved outward, with footlights along it. It sticks out into the audience a bit more than usual, which is likely why they took out seats. 

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#13
Posted: 9/1/18 at 12:38am

Just a couple of quick thoughts from tonight. 

McTeer's performance is excellent. It's worthy of a tony nomination. She brings life to the character and the entire play.  She simply owns the stage and I found myself unable to take my eyes off her. She's becomes the character and it's a joy to watch.

Found the acting rather good throughout, especially Matthew Saldivar. Most surprising was the amount of humor. My fear was the show would be overly heavy because of the subject matter. Rebeck injects humor throughout both acts and it works rather nicely.

While the themes do get somewhat repetitive, the play is worth seeing for McTeer alone. That said, there is so much more than just McTeer. The costumes were beautiful. McTeer wears a robe towards the end of the second act that is stunning. 

The performance tonight did not feel like a first preview. The production is in very good shape.

Definitely one of Roundabout's better offerings of the past few seasons.

Updated On: 9/1/18 at 12:38 AM
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#14
Posted: 9/1/18 at 1:30pm
Please keep posting thoughts. Trying to decide if I will include this in my next few days.
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#15
Posted: 9/1/18 at 11:29pm

Just got back to my hotel after catching this. Both my teen son and I liked this a great deal. I think it needs some trimming, but nothing serious.

McTeer is a tour de force. There were others I thought were great with no weak link.

Is this life altering? No. But it's interesting and entertaining.

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Updated On: 9/2/18 at 11:29 PM
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#16
Posted: 9/2/18 at 12:14am

Couldn’t pull the pin on this one, so I’ll see if it’s worth the time once they get more shows under their belt and, if so, I’ll have to catch it later in the run...

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#17
Posted: 9/2/18 at 12:27am

I caught Bernhard/Hamlet tonight as well. It struck me as one great scene, with two hours of additional material (I thought the confrontation about the Cyrano de Bergerac script was the highlight). 

So much of the story is about if a woman can or should play Hamlet, when a) everyone in play agrees that Sarah Bernhardt is the best actress in the world and b) for modern audiences watching this play the idea of a woman playing a male part isn't controversial. That just leaves the reaction of audiences at the time, and since this play stops before audiences see Bernhardt play Hamlet; a critic who also hasn't seen her performance is the chief person complaining about the idea of a woman playing a man, and I just didn't find that conflict interesting.

Also this is definitely a play you need preexisting knowledge to fully appreciate. Definitely read the information about Bernhardt in the Playbill before it begins because there are jokes and references that probably can't land otherwise; and likewise your enjoyment may vary depending on how much like you Hamlet/are familiar with it's content. A big part of this play is about deconstructing the text of Hamlet. 

I definitely didn't hate it, but it did drag a lot in the first act, and this isn't a play I would go out of my way to recommend in it's current form.        

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#18
Posted: 9/2/18 at 12:28am
At about 9pm tonight, I realized I had tickets for tonightís show... BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#19
Posted: 9/2/18 at 12:45am

I find Rebeck's work on page, screen, and book to be just awful. Not sure why she keeps being produced. But I'm going to opening night. I love McTeer though. 

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#20
Posted: 9/2/18 at 7:30am
I was having trouble staying awake. I think this had as much to do with my internal clock as the play, although it does drag at times. Curiously, there are a couple of long scenes where McTeer doesnít even appear- I guess good for her stamina- but you do miss her presence. She of course acts the heck out of it. The supporting cast is excellent. It took me awhile to recognize Paxton Whitehead as Rodney Dangerfieldís nemesis from Back to School.. I wonder if Rebeck got her full commission for this since big chunks are taken directly from Hamlet and Cyrano. It certainly helps to be familiar with them to understand the in jokes and the deconstruction- most of which is dead on. Certainly worth it forMcTeer. Slavish devotees of Hamlet May not like it due to the justifiable potshots taken at the text (and theyí are Going to have a problem with a female Hamlet anyway). I may go back when Iím more fully alert.

Should be an interesting Tony race with McTeer, Cherry Jones, Elaine May, Keri Russell and more?
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#21
Posted: 9/2/18 at 9:01am
I'm going to disagree that the main conflict is simply about whether a woman should/can play Hamlet. It's an inward and outward struggle with the female identity and particularly that of a strong, intelligent woman.

I'm also going to disagree with worrying about too much prior knowledge. My teen son knows only the basics of Hamlet, nothing of Cyrano...and he had no problems understanding, staying involved. (My son is, of course, of above average brilliance.[Which I say as his totally biased and sarcastic mum.])
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#22
Posted: 9/2/18 at 10:31am

dramamama611 said: "I'm going to disagree that the main conflict is simply about whether a woman should/can play Hamlet. It's an inward and outward struggle with the female identity and particularly that of a strong, intelligent woman.

I'm also going to disagree with worrying about too much prior knowledge. My teen son knows only the basics of Hamlet, nothing of Cyrano...and he had no problems understanding, staying involved. (My son is, of course, of above average brilliance.[Which I say as his totally biased and sarcastic mum.])
"

Well I have made the decision to check it out.  It defenitly sounds interesting based on everyone’s comments.

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#23
Posted: 9/2/18 at 12:17pm
Pulled the trigger and grabbed a digital rush ticket for tonight's show (after skipping it through HipTix). I'm looking forward to it after reading the posts in this thread.
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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#24
Posted: 9/2/18 at 12:34pm

Jonathan Cohen said: "It struck me as one great scene, with two hours of additional material (I thought the confrontation about the Cyrano de Bergerac script was the highlight).

 

Funny: I agree with that description (to an extent) but I disagree about which scene is the one really good one. For me, it was the scene where she and Dylan Baker’s character discuss and rework the ghost scene, particularly the moment where...

 
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Bernhardt casually mentions that her father was like a ghost, then a beat of silence, and she flippantly brushes it off and changes the subject. 

For me, that was the moment of the play, and of McTeer’s performance, that I can’t get out of my head. A part of me wishes that more of the play had been like that moment, but on the other hand, there was something so beautiful about how brief the moment was, and how she never chooses to broach the topic again. 

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET Previews#25
Posted: 9/2/18 at 1:15pm

dramamama611 said: "I'm going to disagree that the main conflict is simply about whether a woman should/can play Hamlet. It's an inward and outward struggle with the female identity and particularly that of a strong, intelligent woman.

I'm also going to disagree with worrying about too much prior knowledge. My teen son knows only the basics of Hamlet, nothing of Cyrano...and he had no problems understanding, staying involved. (My son is, of course, of above average brilliance.[Which I say as his totally biased and sarcastic mum.])
"

For sure, I think it was the intent of Theresa Rebeck that the play be about the inward/outward struggle around female identity, but other than the Cyrano section where Bernhardt had a living playwright around to interrogate about the question of "is that how you view me and women in general" I thought there were large sections where it seemed just about the question of if Bernhardt could pull off Hamlet.    

Regarding the internal sense of femininity, through the privilege of celebrity, Bernhardt slept with who she wanted, took only the parts she was interested in (possibly not entirely true but the choice to play Hamlet and the fixation on playing characters with death scenes seemed to be her own), and did things like own a pet tiger or panther. Unlike her subject Hamlet, it did not appear that Bernhardt had any type of existential crisis: she had a very clear sense of who she was, and other than figuring out how to play Hamlet wasn't struggling internally about identity.   

In terms of an external sense of femininity, other than telling which productions sold well and didn't; the play was set in 1897 Paris and aside from the specifics of Bernhardt who's presented as an outlier, I got very little sense of what the life of a woman in 1897 Paris actually looked like other I guess that they were expected to be "flowers". The actress playing Ophelia had nothing to do other than being intimidated by Bernhardt's greatness in one scene, and Rosamond was given one scene to argue with Bernhardt about a man they're both romantically involved with.  

In terms of the question of needing prior knowledge, for sure you don't about Cyrano de Bergerac. The characters are experience the text for the first time too. With Hamlet or Bernhardt's relationship with the play Camille, I don't think anyone is going to be completely lost, but there are jokes or references that without prior knowledge won't initially make sense or will only be explained in the play 20 minutes after the fact. And of course, Hamlet is probably the most famous play ever, so either way most people probably have a general understanding of that plot.