By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The film ride is thrilling for a few moments, until you realize that you're in for a three-hour slog through a kind of high-tech wizardry that leaves Hamlet, also, in stardust. Shepherd delivers many of the Dane's speeches with rueful clarity, but the poor guy has to yield at least half of his performance to lip-synching somebody else's, while also performing soft-shoe choreography in leather trousers and a kilt (costumes by Claudia Hill). The invitation to this party includes the unspoken request to focus on the relationship between the live performance and the recorded one being aped, adhering to the philosophy that all the world's a remix, and all the men and women digital blips.
I'm not convinced that Hamlet is the best patient for such surgery: Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, and even Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, are more likely candidates, grappling as they do with the mechanistic view of humanity to which we slap on the illusion of free will.
At its core, Hamlet concerns the plight of a character wrestling with the paradoxes of being human in a world overflowing with duplicity and betrayal. Hamlet's, Ophelia's and Gertrude's agonies all stem from their broken hearts, not their severed puppet strings. Were Hamlet a marionette, he would have murdered Claudius in Scene 2, and the drama would be a perennial in one of those 10-minute play contests. LeCompte expects Hamlet to dance with an artificial heart.
On this very stage, in 2004, Stephen Dillane enacted a one-man rendition of Macbeth, which, similarly, invited us to re-examine the way we look at one of Shakespeare's plays. The normally crowded banquet scene was a revelation as performed by one profusely perspiring actor — the electricity between characters was diminished, yet Dillane's approach enhanced a focus on Shakespeare's words and the alternate worlds they conjure. As in The Common Air, Dillane's performance was a high-concept experiment with blood running through it, a hall of mirrors that captured an essence of what it means to be human, as opposed to what it means to exist merely in the ether.
THE COMMON AIR | By ALEX LYRAS and ROBERT McCASKILL | Performed by LYRAS | Soulart at the Asylum Theatre, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. | Through March 8 | (323) 960-4443 or www.thecommonair.com
HAMLET | Presented by THE WOOSTER GROUP | Directed by ELIZABETH LeCOMPTE | REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., dwntwn. | Through Feb. 10 | (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org
A memorial service for the late actress, director, acting coach and artistic director Roberta "Bobbi" Holtzman, who passed away December 31, 2007, will be held on Sat., Feb. 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Campus Theatre at California State University, Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St. All former colleagues, friends and students are welcome. Street parking is recommended.