You can’t blame Ian W. Hill for capitalizing on the Brick Theater’s unabashed Pretentious Festival to direct, design, and star in Ian W. Hill’s Hamlet. But despite the self-advertising title, the text is still very much Will’s, not Hill’s—largely uncut, performed more or less the way you’ve seen it many times before. Hill’s triple-duty work inevitably takes a toll on his own performance, which conveys intelligence through sardonic line readings, yet betrays a physical uneasiness and lack of classical training. The Brick’s small stage seems cluttered with needless supernumeraries and clunky platforms (and all the lovely Michael Nyman music in the world cannot sufficiently “cover” the multiple blackouts needed to reconfigure those unwieldly slabs). Isolated directorial choices hint at fresh interpretations—the ghost as an antiphony of choral voices, for instance—and the deadpan Bryan Enk turns Polonius into a wonderfully creepy schoolmaster. But the copying of Ingmar Bergman’s violent revisionist ending (Elsinor stormed by a punk-rock Fortinbras) comes way out of left field in Hill’s otherwise tame approach.
Hill stays true to the text, but might have fared better heeding Polonius’s advice and to his own self been truer. Given such limited resources, a more radically personal Hamlet might have fared better, even if it risked being truly “pretentious.”