The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0920  Thursday, 19 October 2006

From: 		Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Wednesday, 18 Oct 2006 12:11:19 -0700
Subject: 	Hamlet Onstage with Annotation

Shakespeare, Interrupted by the Great and the Wordy
NYT, October 17, 2006

Imagine that the footnotes in an annotated version of "Hamlet," crowded 
at the bottom of each page and bursting to explain, suddenly came to 
life during a performance. What would it be like? Passing strange, to 
quote Shakespeare.

The New York company Wordplay lists him as the author of its experiment 
"The Heart of My Mystery: The Hamlet Project" - an adaptation by Barbara 
Bosch and Mark Ringer, both professors of theater - though Shakespeare 
might protest.

The lines of his longest play have not only been cut, but even risk 
being upstaged at the Michael Weller Theater by nearly 30 commentators, 
from Judith Anderson to Oscar Wilde. The cast, eight men in dark suits 
and two women, take turns delivering the quotations briskly, before, 
during or after the edited scenes, on a stage bare except for 10 wooden 
chairs painted silver and a blackboard on which the annotators' names 
are printed in chalk.

The gloom of the schoolroom threatens, yet Shakespeare has the last 
word. His brilliant thriller, with its murders, betrayals and 
dysfunctional Danish royals, triumphs over the kibitzers. It would be an 
exaggeration to say that this is an hour and three-quarters of 
Bartlett's quotations, but the remarks seemed intrusive even as you got 
used to them.

To Ms. Bosch, who directs, and Mr. Ringer, who plays Polonius and the 
Gravedigger, the idea might have sounded like a fresh way for students 
to explore the play. The observations can be gossipy (Anderson on 
Hamlet: "I think that in his school days he had a little affair with 
Horatio"); critical (T. S. Eliot: "Far from being Shakespeare's 
masterpiece, 'Hamlet' is most certainly an artistic failure"); and even 
presented in music-hall style (light verse by P. G. Wodehouse) - with 
the majority about the text.

Under the circumstances it is not easy for the actors to sustain 
dramatic tension, but two of the abbreviated scenes worked well, 
including the one in which Hamlet (Peter Husovsky) wryly questions his 
school friends Rosencrantz (James Cleveland) and Guildenstern (Antonio 
Edward Suarez) about their sudden arrival at court. Bracketed with 
quotations from Wilde and C. S. Lewis, the exchange was still presented 
so naturally that it provoked laughter on a recent night.

What was most revealing, though, was how little the commentary mattered 
when set against the power of Shakespeare's devastating final scene.

"The Heart of My Mystery: The Hamlet Project" continues through Oct. 29 
at the Michael Weller Theater, 311 West 43rd Street, sixth floor, 
Clinton; (212) 352-3101.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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