Last Friday night, my friend Matt scored tickets for "Hamlet" in the Park. The production was marvelous – one of the best Hamlets I’ve ever seen, certainly on the short list with Bergman and the Wooster Group. Michael Stuhlbarg is kind of the un-Hamlet; small, quick, fey, comedic, unheroic in the swashbuckling sense. He has a keen, quick intelligence, and makes every bloody word and moment crystal clear. His Hamlet is a good man –sensitive and kind and insecure – in a horrifying predicament. Oskar Eustis stays away from anything smelling like his concept of Hamlet, and tells the story. It's three and a half hours and it sails right by.
Sam Waterston is a fabulous Polonius. The girl in front of me screamed when he got stabbed. The rest of the cast – Andre Braugher, David Harbour as Laertes – are excellent. Lauren Ambrose was Ophelia – good in the early scenes, not quite there in the mad scenes yet. In a terrific touch – and I kept wondering if Eustis had seen the Bergman – her ‘flowers’ in the mad scene are stones. At the end of the scene, she puts on a heavy overcoat, fills the pockets with stones, and exits upstage towards the lake.
Sam Waterston went up at one point, big time. But he’s an actor of such generosity and egolessness, the audience quickly forgave him and applauded his attempts at recovery. There was a long pause while he stared forward – a looong pause – and he said very quietly, “Where was I?” One of the supers around him fed him a line. He fumbled a bit more, running through where he’d been. Then back on track.