Kevin Kline’s Hamlet

June 25, 2006

Watching another Hamlet on my last day off before opening was probably not the best idea. I couldn't finish it. I should have watched something with lots of explosions instead. It was impossible for me to just enjoy the story without jumping on every little thing they're doing differently from our production. A beat change? On this line instead of that line? What are they thinking?

It's a video of a stage production, filmed without a live audience. The feel of it is very similar to Jacobi's — especially in the set design (and the instant set changes; I wish they had shown how they handled those). The staging is extremely static: the actors get into a position and stay there for lines and lines and lines. The costumes are early 20th century, not all that different from our production.

I've always liked Kevin Kline. How can you not love him after A Fish Called Wanda? It took me a while to get used to him as Hamlet. He does well with the language, though he has a tendency to elongate vowels more than is really necessary for emphasis. And he cries all the time. There are literally tears running down his cheeks in every soliloquy. Still, he's doing solid work.

Overall, it felt safe; almost tentative. But again, that's probably because I've spent so much time thinking about all the risks I'm taking in our production. Oh, well. I can at least say this — if you're only going to watch one Hamlet on video, I'd say track down a copy of Peter Brook's. Kline's is further down the list; somewhere above Mel Gibson and below Derek Jacobi.

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