BWW Reviews: CSC's HAMLET Better Off Not To Be

The last time Classic Stage Company tackled Shakespeare's Hamlet, it was a dynamic and inventive production mounted by artistic director Brian Kulick and starring Michael Cumpsty. This time around, however, director Austin Pendleton's production, though initially visually interesting, is marked by questionable acting and confusing staging.

Peter Sarsgaard (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

Set in contemporary times, all of the action is played out in and around set designer Walt Spangler's swanky restaurant/lounge. The company's formal wear is by Constance Hoffman. With a tiered cake upstage, the impression is that everyone's just finished Gertrude and Claudius' wedding reception dinner.

Most inexplicable about the textual edits is the elimination of the ghost of Hamlet's father, although other dead characters wind up being seen walking among the living.

In the title role, Peter Sarsgaard seems to be in angry hipster mode, barking out lines with speed and attitude without getting much across for meaning. At least his hyper-energy is preferable to Harris Yulin's sluggish Claudius, Penelope Allen's stilted Gertrude and Lisa Joyce's vacant Ophelia. Only Stephen Spinella's elegant and blasé Polonius makes a positive impression.

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