(Photo: Johann Persson)
By Lauren Yarger
There’s a new Dane in town and he’s taking Elsinore and Broadway by storm. He’s Jude Law, who plays the revenge-seeking prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Broadhurst Theater.
Taking on the role of one of the Bard’s most oft-portrayed protagonists, especially one who has been played so well over the years by the likes of Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier as well as more recent film stars Kenneth Branagh and Mel Gibson, is no easy task, but Law proves he’s up to the challenge, creating an intensely brooding, angry, sarcastic and electrifying Hamlet who sets about avenging the death of his father who reappears in the form of ghost (Peter Eyre).
The slain king tells his son that he was poisoned by his brother Claudius (Kevin R. McNally) who, having wed Hamlet’s mother Gertrude (Geraldine James) now sits on the throne of Denmark. Hamlet sets on getting revenge, and in true Shakespeare fashion, there is some treachery, some madness, some sword fighting and a lot of dead people piling up on stage by the end.
Michael Grandage expertly guides a talented cast, dressed in oh-so-appropriate, but elegant funereal black through the tragedy that unfolds in the walls of a grand, but bleak castle set (Christopher Oram, set and costume design). In a clever costume choice, a troupe of dramatic players who act out the truth of the king’s death wear white. Neil Austin’s lighting design, along with fog effects completed by music and sound design by Adam Cork, expertly enhance the action, creating moods of ominous shadows, dark and light.
Standing out in the cast is a very funny Polonius (Ron Cook), joined by a most able Laertes (Gwilym Lee), Horatio (Matt Ryan) and a very strong supporting cast. Standing out, unfortunately, as the disappointment in the casting, is Ophelia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who seems uncomfortable and unsure of herself throughout the performance. Shakespeare’s meter isn’t familiar on her tongue and she appears out of place throughout the production, ironically, often being positioned at the far reaches of the action as if standing.
Overall, though, the Donmar Warehouse’s production, which comes to Broadway following sold-out runs in London’s West End and at Elsinore in Denmark, is absolutely stunning and one of the most engaging I’ve ever seen. The play’s the thing through Dec. 6 at the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th Street, NYC. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200/(800) 432-7250. For discounted group tickets and to support masterwork prodcutions, click here.