27 May 2013

Hamlet (Kline 1990)

Hamlet 1990 (Kline)
  • Director: Kevin Kline
  • Based on book: by Shakespeare
  • Cast: Kevin Kline, Peter Francis James, Dana Ivey, Brian Murray, Josef Sommer, Michael Cumpsty, Diane Venora, Philip Goodwin
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Kevin Kline – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, A Prairie Home Companion, The Emperor’s Club, Life As a House, The Wild Wild West, The Ice Storm, Dave, The January Man, A Fished Called Wanda, Silverado, Sophie’s Choice
    • Dana Ivey – The Help, Sleepless in Seattle, The Color Purple
    • Diane Venora - Romeo and Juliet, Surviving Picasso, Heat, Bird, Ironweed, Hamlet (Almereyda 2000)
    • Josef Sommer – The Family Man, Witness, Moonlight and Valentino
  • Seen: February 24, 2013 

This is a theatrical production in the best sense of the word, and the worst.
In the best sense, it’s straightforward Shakespeare. It plays the play. The setting is simple, stark, effective, handsome.
The acting is at times brilliant. Ophelia in her flower monolog brought tears to my eyes. In a row of very good Ophelias, Diane Venora is the best. Likewise Polonius (Josef Sommer). The play starts to lift when he starts talking.
Which brings us to the theatrical problems.  The first two scenes are stiff with essentially everybody, Kevin Kline included, reading Shakespeare’s lines instead of talking like people really do. They are self-conscious – “ohmigod, I’m doing Shakespeare!”
But after the slow start the play really lifts and everybody has powerful moments. Kevin Kline displays his vast acting talents best in his mad moments and in his confrontations with Ophelia in the “Get thee to a nunnery” scene.
As usual Claudius and Gertrude aren’t as good as one would wish. These are difficult roles but so important to get right.  Ivey and Murray don’t, though they have their moments too.
A sincere, honest effort, mostly successful.

8 ½ * of 10.

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