Nine Theatricals Presents Hamlet at the Thirteenth Street Repertory Theater in New York, adapted by Matt de Rogatis and Jay Michaels is a fascinating addition to the stage history of this 400-year old miracle. One of the new additions to the text is the Teller of Tales, a mysterious guide through the action, rising, curiously, from within the audience.
The versatile de Rogatis, who also plays Hamlet but has also played Stanley Kowalsky, gives us a virile, masculine Hamlet. His Hamlet broods, yes, but de Rogatis relishes the sheer physicality of the most coveted of roles. The effect is that Hamlet retains all of of his sympathetic aspects but appears less of a victim of his own indecisiveness. Lorraine Mattox gives us a profoundly sympathetic Ophelia, gone mad from the loss of the Hamlet she once knew. Jim Kempner plays Claudius with a Machiavallian adeptness as the calculating politician, moving chess pieces at a safe distance.
Linda S. Nelson is particularly noteworthy as Gertrude, displaying fluidity as a newlywed, a mother, a Queen and ultimately as human, all too human. The bedroom scene between Hamlet and the Queen is bathed in scarlet (a brilliant move by Lighting Designer Maryam Sweirki), the midpoint and quite possibly the most intense moment of the play. The look and feel of the scene is like something from within a membrane. One feels uncomfortable watching such a intimate argument and yet the observer is unable to look away.
The action of the play is fluid, often violent. The fight choreographer Michael Hagins does an exemplary job at staging the final, excellent duel between Laertes and the Prince of Denmark and even the run-up at Ophelia's funeral. Laertes is played with a giving softness when in the context of his sister and father, Polonius, then with a hissing violence by the excellent Brian Patrick Murphy. The run-up to the final duel is not unlike an ultimate fighting match with the stakes, of course, being Life and Death.
Hamlet, played by Matt de Rogatis is up to the challenge. The sheer physicality of the performance, of all the performances, the excellent lighting, the mysterious Teller of Tales, and, we cannot fail to mention the excellent, subtle musical cues of Mary Elizabeth Micari make for a show that will remain with the audience members long after the play has ended.