Volume 79, Number 22 | November 04 - 10, 2009
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THEATER review

Photo by Johan Persson

Cold as ice: Jude Law contemplates royal revenge

Skilled star shines as pseudo psycho

Jude Law’s Hamlet is best, only reason to see ‘reverent revival’


Jude Law is perhaps the only reason why this reverent revival of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays is on Broadway. Direct from an acclaimed run at London’s Donmar Warehouse, the 37 year-old British movie star is one of the youngest actors to ever play the classic role — which has been performed in previous stage and screen productions by everyone from Richard Burton to Sir Laurence Olivier to Ralph Fiennes.

Law gives a fresh interpretation of Hamlet, the late son of King Hamlet of Denmark. Out for revenge, Hamlet cooks up a series of plots to seek justice and retribution for his father’s death (while masking his efforts in the cloak of supposed insanity). In many of Hamlet’s famous soliloquies, Law gives the character the right mix of anger and frustration, complete with the mellifluous delivery required for Shakespeare’s elegant dialogue.

The lesser-known supporting cast is, unfortunately, not as effective — except for Ron Cook as a feisty Pelonius. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as Pelonius’s tragic daughter Ophelia, is serviceable — as are Geraldine James as Gertrude and Ian Drysdale as Claudius. It’s a shame director Michael Grandage isn’t able to get most of the cast to match Law’s sense of dramatic timing.

British productions have recently relied on gimmickry to put a new spin on the classics. Last spring’s revival of Frederich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” about Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots, was another Donmar Warehouse import to Broadway that featured actors in contemporary dark suits — except for the female leads, both of whom sported Elizabethan-era period costumes. “Mary Stuart” worked because at least the battling queens were in appropriate attire.  Here, everyone in the cast, including Hamlet, is adorned in 2009 clothing. Isn’t seeing actors wearing 13th century costumes half the fun of watching Shakespeare?

Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Michael Grandage. Through December 6, at The Broadhurst Theater (235 West 44th Street). For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit www.hamletbroadway.com. 

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