Monday, November 22, 2010

To See or Not To See?

That is the question. Luckily, in this case the answer is simple: SEE! I am referring to Seattle Shakespeare Company's current production of Hamlet, which is running through December 5th. Although Hamlet is undoubtedly my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, I have never seen a live production before, and although I've watched three of the movie versions, have not been entirely satisfied with any of them.

This time, however, I was more than satisfied. This was a lean, intelligently interpreted production of Hamlet, where the actors (Darragh Kennan in the title role) spoke their lines as if they were living them, not reciting them. There was room in this Hamlet for laughter and rumination and accusation and that wonderful ambiguity that I have always loved about the text. Is there a more profound text in the English language? Hard to say. Seeing the play and experiencing the text as a living thing, I remembered reading it for the first time in high school English. Back then, I thought about the play all the time, like a fever. A couple of years later, I came back to it again and felt the same. "Hamlet" is gloriously ambivalent; at the same time, Shakespeare creates the first truly modern character to look piercingly through the centuries and grapple with the vagaries of life and death, action and thought. Hearing some of the most famous sentences of our language being spoken aloud had an almost totemic quality to it; I heard audience members murmuring in recognition at "Frailty, thy name is woman" and "To thine own self be true" and the countless other lines that have entered our shared experience of this language. It was powerful: a sacred text brought to life, all wrapped together with the physical action and the audience--rapt, leaning forward.

There are things in heaven and earth not dreamt of in our philosophy. It's nice to be reminded of that now and again.

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