Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Review of American Stage's Hamlet

The Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies arranged for about thirty friends and colleagues to attend, then discuss, on March 15th, The American Stage Theater's production of Hamlet. While our group very much delighted in Todd Olson's enjoyable version, many of us were surprised by the depiction of Hamlet, not as a melancholic, but, instead, as a manic. The removal of Horatio from the script had the effect of leaving Hamlet with no trustworthy ear into which he could pour his angst. Consequently, the sense of tragedy (though all main characters are dead in the end) was lost, and, with the notable exception of the very effective rending of garments by Ophelia, Hamlet played almost entirely humorously.

In this quite truncated and up-dated version of Hamlet [perhaps necessarily so in order to appeal to modern day audiences who demand video-game/sit com/internet fast pace with little time devoted to reading], what was more noticeably lost was the beauty of Shakespearean meter, prose and poetry. The love of language is lost here.

Peter Rudnytsky, in his inimitable scholarly fashion, pointed out the use by Shakespeare of doubles and tragic ironies (e.g. that Hamlet is born on the day his father the King has killed King Fortinbras of Norway, only to have the kingdom of Denmark go to the son Fortinbras once Prince Hamlet, et al, are dead), many of which were lost by this shortened version. Please refer to the writings by Rudnytsky for further scholarship about this timeless play.

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