Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Russian Dreamboat

Okay, so I did have classes on the 15th, but they were not the highlight of the day for me.  No sir.  (Even though the dance class surprised us by being our last dance class… which sort of made us all heave a sigh of relief.)  The highlight for me was the epic production of Гамлет (Hamlet) we saw last night.  First of all… I must explain something about the way Russian theatre works.  They don’t rehearse a show for a couple of months, run it for a couple of weeks, close it and start on a new one the way we do.  Instead they rehearse a show until it is ready, then they open it and play it a couple of times a month for as long as it sells, rotating between several other shows in their repertoire over the course of the rest of the month.  Last year the Moscow group saw a production of The Seagull that had been running at MXAT for about 30 years.  The Hamlet we saw last night has been running since 2005.  Clearly actors will come and go throughout that time, but it’s a director’s theatre here, so the director’s production is what remains.  This means that company members keep all these shows in their brains for as long as necessary… and they love their star actors here… so a lot of the same people end up having the lion’s share of the roles.  The guy who played Sorin in Seagullplayed Peacham in Three Penny and Hamlet’s father’s ghost/player king in Hamlet.  The guy who played Trigorin inSeagull played Mack in Three Penny and Claudius in Hamlet.  And this fellow… oh my… he’s crazy talented and crazy hot.  There are many of us who are becoming fairly serious groupies.  But I remain cool-headed.  The other day as I was walking down from the cafeteria with another woman in my group, he was just sitting there in the hallway smoking (everyone smokes in the hallways here… it’s really annoying).  I very coolly greeted him and he returned the hello and we walked on.  Of course, when we got a level down the stairs was when I started freaking out: “Was that him?  That was him right?  Oh my gosh!”  Anyway… he’s super dreamy.  (No worries, Rick… I have no plans to stay here and become a permanent stalker or anything.) So… back to Гамлет.  You see, my Russian Dreamboat Константин (Konstantin) was one of the things I loved about this production – and not just because he’s so darn pretty.  As Claudius, he avoided that Hollywood trap of “Claudius is a villain.”  So many productions play the end in the beginning – there’s no doubt he’s a power-hungry murderer, so we just sit around and wait for Hamlet to get off his ass and kill the bastard.  But this was a crazy likeable Claudius.  And also interesting – he and Hamlet seemed to have a pretty good relationship at first.  They wrestled and joked and clowned around.  He doesn’t know at the beginning that Claudius killed his father.  But that’s not to say that there aren’t any cracks in this relationship, and when Claudius granted Laertes his request to leave, things started to get more tense.  Then, when the ghost appeared… oh man.  Hamlet followed him off, just as you would expect, but then they re-entered running and playing and hugging each other – he wasn’t the cold, distant specter, but the loving father getting one last chance to speak to his son.  It was very moving and was very effectively juxtaposed against not only Polonius’s advice to his children, but against some of Hamlet and Claudius’s interactions in the first scene.  Claudius and Gertrude had a really fun, sexy relationship too, as their really fun foreplay chase was interrupted by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and then by Polonius.  R & G were dressed in drab browns when we first met them, but when they came to greet Hamlet they were in matching sailor suits, carrying satchels and bouquets while they swayed to the music.  It was such a brilliant illustration of how they had been carefully packaged by Gertrude and Claudius before being delivered to Hamlet.  One pretty amazing cut happened in Act III Scene 1 when Hamlet picked up a crumpled piece of paper off the ground, read off the line “to be or not to be, that is the question,” and then tossed it away in disgust – they cut the speech!  But, never fear – they put it back at the end, right before the duel.  And when he finally did deliver it, I got chills even though I didn’t understand a damn word.  And he did the piece while clutching the ghost of Ophelia in his arms.  The staging was largely very stylized and expressionistic – it was actually the same director who did theRichard III that we saw last night – but it was so full of meaning and soul.  I mean… damn!  There were many cuts and rearrangements and such, but things began to get very wild and much harder for the non-Russian speaker to follow after Hamlet killed Polonius.  It was at that point that madness truly began to descend on the prince, and the story and imagery became more and more distorted.  I can’t say that I understood everything that was done in this later part of the show, but it was absolutely beautiful.  The final duel was completely stylized – it involved everyone (even the dead characters) sitting around a table, and they had a group movement every time there was a hit, and confetti denoted the poison (as it had in their production of The Murder of Gonzago).  Finally, when everyone was dead and the curtain began to fall, all the actors sat up and looked out at the audience with their hats spinning on their canes – a recurring motif they had used.  The image was absolutely gorgeous. I’m finding it difficult to fully describe the awesomeness of this production in a way that can do it any justice.  But what I would say is that I learned things about Hamlet by watching this production – and that’s pretty darn cool.  I actually walked away feeling light I’m almost ready to direct my own Hamlet now… and I even started mentally casting it for Greenville actors.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do that some time.  Because man… I’ve got some great ideas. Oh – one important thing I have to mention: this production had no Horatio.  This surprised us all.  It ended up working in that it really isolated Hamlet, giving him no support and no solid link to sanity.  It was a bold choice, and I think it worked for this production, but I don’t know that it would work anywhere else.  Just a little something to ponder for ya. Seriously… mind-boggling. 

No comments:

Post a Comment