Monday, January 12, 2009

This Hamlet I want to see

Apparently David Tennant is the greatest Hamlet of his generation, or so says The Guardian. Okay. Needless to say, these photos are not from the production that's taken London by storm. Rather, it is, as you might have guessed, a German staging—more specifically, one by Dilettante favorite Thomas Ostermeier.

I don't even know why I specify it's German because if you've been following international theater of the past 25 years, it's pretty obvious that it is. (The equivalent works in opera, too, as those who read La Cieca and her hilarious Regie quizzes know full well.)

I know, I know: It's so easy to make fun of those productions. And yet I often find them entrancing because they are so demented. I ran into a composer friend at a Park Slope coffee shop a couple of weeks ago, and we had the beginning (because I was running late and had to go) of an interesting conversation about this. I tend to fall in the pro-Regie camp, which holds that you can completely reenvision a play or opera, and his basic question was, If you're going to mangle something beyond recognition, why don't you come up with a new play or a new opera to begin with?

A valid concern, of course, to which I say: If we've seen Hamlet 100 times, why not make take liberties with the 101st? Granted, this does assume that the audience has seen enough Hamlets to be interested in a radical reimagining of it; I'm not sure one can make this leap about our local audiences.

Chances are we're not going to see Ostermeier's Hamlet here, unless maybe BAM does well enough with Sam Mendes's The Cherry Orchard and The Winter's Tale in the coming month, and uses part of the profits to import Hamlet for a five-day run. That to me is one of the reasons to mount this type of staging—so it can finance more commercially hazardous ones. We'll see.

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