Photo and opening photo by David Chick
A new “Alternate Universe/Other World Hamlet” is descending upon the 13th Street Repertory this July and at the launch party last week, director Jay Michaels made us curious to see it. This promises to be a novel look at the play replete with text additions from older versions from which Shakespeare’s Hamlet was drawn, steampunk costumes and a deformed (“How else could Hamlet immediately identify it?” he challenged), but glow in the dark(!) skull of Yorick.
Mr. Michaels, a former actor, veteran director of six prior Hamlets, and current professor of theater at Kingsborough College, skillfully led us through a history of the play that evening. The story of relatives killing each other in calculated revenge and feigning madness to find out truths goes back centuries. Mr. Michaels avered, “Shakespeare is forever. Shakespeare is Hamlet.”
The two authors of this new adaptation, Mr. Michaels and actor Matt de Rogatis playing the titular role, are determined to offer us a reason to, “…bring Hamlet to new audiences”. They have introduced a Storyteller character- a narrator cum stage manager as in “Our Town”-incorporating different Hamlet narratives into the text. They drew from “Ur-Hamlet” by Thomas Kynd which introduces the ghost, “The Life of Amleth” preserved by 13th century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, and the Roman legend of Brutus-both of which include feigning madness and eventual slaying of a court member.
Psychoanalytic critics have examined Hamlet’s unconscious desires and these two men are determined to get to the bottom of exactly what’s going on within this play. Mr. de Rogatis quipped that, “As the son of a mailman, I will deliver.” For proof of his diligence he is currently seeing a therapist-as Hamlet! Confirmation of his dedication to the role is furthered by his commitment to finish the tattoos on his arm in a what-would-Hamlet-have appropriate sleeve.
The evening was held at Jim Kempner Fine Arts in Chelsea. Mr. Kempner, who stars in his own amusing web series about his fictional/non-fictional comings and goings in the contemporary art world, will play Polonius. Amidst the fine colorful and creative work displayed in the gallery, an entertaining and successful evening was had by the attendees as a charming and ably informative Mr. Michaels did more than convince us to see this novel production with a new look. As he noted, Hamlet has been done in the nude, on the moon and in the Wild West; we were left with confidence he was the man up to the challenge of “…how to make Hamlet new again”.
13th Street Repertory Theatre
50 West 13th St
NY NY 10011