“Hamlet” is not an easy show to perform. From the little old lady in the front row reciting “to be or not to be” along with the actor, to the more general problem of the audience knowing exactly what will occur by the end of the show, “Hamlet” is fraught with challenges. With at least 30 different characters, “Hamlet” also requires a huge company of actors — or at least that is the traditional ensemble.
The Bedlam Comp-any has opened a four-person production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the Lynn Redgrave Theater in SoHo, running through 2014. Eric Tucker, who plays the Danish prince, conceived the production, which ran earlier this year in February at the Access Theater. It has the same amazing cast as the first production, with Edmund Lewis, Andrus Nichols, Tom O’Keefe and Tucker himself.
The moment viewers walk into the theater, they know they are not in for a traditional version of one of Shakespeare’s most-produced plays. The stage is covered with chairs and the audience is free to choose their seat — on the stage.
The play starts in complete darkness, creating an unsettling environment for an audience unsure of where the action will take place. Then, the actors slowly enter with only a flashlight, which is the sole source of light for most of the opening act. From the use of flashlights to the costumes, this is a minimalist version of “Hamlet.” While minimalist Shakespeare is not a new idea, this version makes the conceit unique. Maybe it’s because so much of the action takes place in and around the audience, or maybe because there are so few actors. Whatever idea you consider, it makes for a thrilling show.
This minimalism also puts the acting center stage. Tucker’s Hamlet is a lovely, relatable version of the prince. He brings a humanity to Hamlet that is sometimes left out of productions, and the power behind “Hamlet” is the play’s relatability. The plot revolves around a prince afraid to act and follow his fate — a universal fear. We are all scared to follow our dreams, and Tucker’s performance taps into this known truth.
The idea of four people performing “Hamlet” seems a bit insane. But somehow, Tucker’s production succeeds. He creates an exciting version that truly captures the essence of the play and of this well-known character. The production may be somewhat hard to follow for someone unfamiliar with the play, however — actors suddenly jumping from one character to another could potentially be confusing. But for people who know the play, this is a wonderful production, and it makes for an incredibly enjoyable three hours.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 3 print edition. Sarah Doody is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]