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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Broadhurst


  Jude Law as Hamlet/ Ph: Johan Persson

Jude Law is Hamlet.
That's not a marketing tag line, it's an approving assessment of Law's impressive ability to fully inhabit the disturbed Dane in the Donmar Warehouse iteration of William Shakespeare's play now on Broadway.         
Unfortunately, while Hamlet has plenty of company on stage, Law stands alone in giving a fully realized and visceral performance. Imagine Lebron James returning to play on his old high school basketball team and you get a sense of the imbalance. (And Law's take on Hamlet is an athletic, physical one.)
The rest of the cast deserves all the slings and arrows—their performances range from the adequate (Ron Cook as Polonius) to the unintelligible (Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ophelia). The biggest disappointments are Peter Eyre, who shows a lack of presence in not one but two crucial roles (the Ghost of Hamlet's Father and the Player King), and Geraldine James as Gertrude. James is a British actress well-versed in the classics (and an OBE to boot). It would be tempting to say her colorless performance makes you yearn for the moment when she drinks the poison but that only prompts one of the worst death scenes ever witnessed. If she weren't lying on the ground, you'd swear she was reading off a teleprompter like an inept politician.
The drab monochromatic costumes further depress the proceedings and also make Claudius—Kevin R. McNally with a salt-and-pepper coif—look like John Gotti. It is not flattering.
In the first act, this is all a footnote. Director Michael Grandage uses the impressively stark lighting (Neil Austin) and set (Christopher Oram) to carve up the vast spaces, and Hamlet's journey of discovery dominates virtually every scene. But the second act drags a bit, as Hamlet cedes more of the footlights to his lessers. The playwright is partly to blame, since the act is overly plotted, but in previous productions and movies, the sending away and returning of Hamlet never felt so plodding. Ultimately, although the weakness of the secondary actors badly damages the production, Law gives this Hamlet  a definite reason to be.


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