This new take on Hamlet brings to Broadway the same montage that played in the West End in London, where it did a sold out run, with the same cast. And what a wonderful cast that is. The strength from the cast reflects on Mr Law's performance of Hamlet.
Said to be "the greatest part written for a actor between 19 and 40" by Mr Law himself in an interview to Playbill, Hamlet can prove a difficult task to undertake. Many actors have taken a shot at it before and some of the resulting performances were quite unforgettable, from Laurence Olivier to Kenneth Branagh with pit stops even in Mel Gibson, Hamlet has been there and done that.
Not to mention it's one of Shakespeare's most quoted works. In several moments during the play the audience murmured in recognition of familiar lines. So how to bring in the magic, with the added challenge of the play running for 3 hours?
Mr Law brings something fresh to the play, and I for one was surprised to see his theater acting chops. Movie acting and stage acting being as different as two things can be. His stage presence is commanding, he moves with the grace of a panther and instills the character with youthful vitality. And he manages to bring humor into play at all the appropriate times. His Hamlet is as tortured as he is playful, a man bend on a mission of revenge that is more like a curse of fate.
The supporting cast is superb. Each adding to the freshness of this new production. The visual of the play, and lighting choices, keep the noir theme with an oppressive stage set both "boxes in" the characters and frees them. A contrast between the high oppressive walls and the high ceiling. It is really stunning. The choice of setting for the famous "to be or not to be" monologue is unusual, and very poetic, in sync with Mr Law's delivery of it.
The theater was full in the performance I attended (matinee of Saturday, Sept. 19th), with a mixed audience of young and not so young attendants. First I was temped to divide them between Hamlet's fans and Jude Law's fans, but in the end, they sort of merged into one group of awed theater goers receiving the gift of watching a great play with a great cast.