Theater Review 88.
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By William Shakespeare
Directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius
Meno Fortas Theater, Vilnius
This is more Nekrosius's Hamlet than Shakespeare's. He has used the bard's words, but the iconoclastic Lithuanian director has cut whole chunks of the play, along with characters, to make sure we don't lose the point. Unfortunately, it takes a little too long for us to "get" it. Moreover, so intense is Nekrosius's vision, one gets the feeling that the uniformly marvelous actors, completely focused and immediate as they are, had little to say about their performances and little input into their roles.
You could also call this undeniably brilliant show "Gimmicks Galore." The ghost rubs Hamlet's feet on a block of ice, then gives it to him to hold; after her first meeting with Hamlet, Polonius wraps Ophelia in a fur coat, plunges her feet into a tub and pours water therein; Claudius prays, offset by two huge goblets; Polonius dies, not by Hamlet's sword, but upside down, packed in a trunk. Fire and ice pervade.
The mostly metal set and set pieces look as if they're made of found stuff. They're graceless and unwieldy. They clunk and crash. They work, as does Faustas Latinas's music.
A three-and-a-half hour yawn? Oh no. Far from it. And there are some genuinely moving moments. From the beginning we get Hamlet's ferocious grief, we get the idea that he doesn't have as much control over his supposedly feigned madness as he maybe thinks he does. The rest of it comes more slowly - the idea that as the moral ugliness piles up, the more Hamlet's options become constricted and inimical; that cumulatively humanity becomes inhumane so that when, at the end, the ghost howls over the body of his dead son, the howl is ours. We live in a world where serial inhumanity has become the norm.