Richard and I saw *Bernhardt/Hamlet* on Broadway on 9/18/18.  It's a new play by Theresa Rebeck about the great 19th century French actress Sarah Bernhardt taking on the role of Hamlet late in her career.

 

Janet McTeer played Bernhardt, a perfect match of an actor and role.  We had seen her as the title character in *Mary Stuart* and as the female lead in *Les Liaisons Dangereuses.*  She had the grandeur, she had the chops, she had the charisma, she was the best thing in the show.  Dylan Baker was also very strong as her leading man, he had a wonderful feeling for the language while still using his American accent.  Jason Butler Harner was also very good as her lover and chosen playwright, Edmond Rostand.  That name rang a bell with me - - I told Richard I thought he was the guy who wrote *Cyrano de Bergerac.*  Sure enough, we saw a scene from *Cyrano* in the second act.

 

The problem with writing a new play with sizable excerpts from *Hamlet* and *Cyrano* is that the new material won't hold up.  We had more than a bit of that.  I would rather have seen McTeer playing Bernhardt as Hamlet, with all of the 19th century trappings, using Bernhardt's adaptation (but in the English original, of course).  Wouldn't that have been delicious.

 

The high point of the play was an argument between Bernardt and Rostand, where she says that no woman should be happy playing an ingenue if the ingenue has nothing interesting to say.  It's not enough to make her beautiful and desirable, she must also be a complete person, as complete as the men in the play.  The audience applauded her after this speech.  This was the one scene that was as viable and stage worthy as the Shakespeare and Rostand excerpts.

 

One final bravo to director Moritz von Stuelpnagel (don't you love that name).  He kept things moving and had a great feeling for the grand manner.  No surprise, since his last Broadway credit was last year's delicious revival of Noel Coward's *Present Laughter,* with Kevin Kline winning a Tony as a highbrow hammy actor.

 

I think this play might play well in smaller theatre companies around the country.  It's a great role for a seasoned actress of a certain age, it's the *Master Class* for the new millennium!  The title alone will bring in an audience.

© 2023 by The Artifact. Proudly created with Wix.com

  • Facebook B&W
  • Twitter B&W
  • Instagram B&W