Michael Stuhlbarg's Hamlet: Jangled Out of Tune

Despite princely moments, this Denmark's a mishmash

Moody Dane + Inky cloak = Well-spoken avenger: Stuhlbarg as Hamlet
Michal Daniel
Moody Dane + Inky cloak = Well-spoken avenger: Stuhlbarg as Hamlet


By William Shakespeare
Delacorte Theater, Central Park

When Stuhlbarg speaks directly to us, with simple gravity, the evening rises to a poetic plane that makes the embarrassing rubble of the rest almost forgivable. If he could convey his own feelings the way he does the fall of a sparrow, this would be a Hamlet to cherish. But Stuhlbarg, or whoever guided him, is smitten with the tearful mama's-boy side of Hamlet. In every soliloquy, he finds some point at which to careen into vocalized hysteria, pulling the verse out of shape and smearing the emotions all over the stage. Even so, he towers over the confusion around him. Rather than conceive his own interpretation of Hamlet, Eustis seems to have made a selection of favorite bits from other directors' renderings. Unfair to his whole cast (Lauren Ambrose's promising Ophelia is a particular victim), this miscellaneous approach is ultimately hardest on Stuhlbarg, whose single, highly arguable idea of the role deserves a supportive context in which it could receive a fair test. Without that, even the best Hamlet is no more than a prince of shreds and patches.

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