Tags Posts tagged with "Hamlet"


Alexander Skarsgard and Anya Taylor-Joy star in a scene from the movie "The Northman." Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Writer-director Robert Eggers made his feature debut with the slow-burn horror film The Witch (starring Anya Taylor-Joy). He followed this up with the slow-burn horror fantasy The Lighthouse. While audiences had mixed reactions, he received critical acclaim for both. His newest work, The Northman, is his most accessible and certainly most commercial. 

The story begins in 985 AD. Young Prince Amleth’s (Oscar Novak) father, King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), returns from battle and is murdered by his half-brother, the bastard Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Fjölnir takes the throne and abducts Aurvandill’s queen, Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). 

If the plot sounds vaguely familiar, there is no surprise as it draws from the same source as Hamlet. Shakespeare derived his play from the legend of Amleth, preserved by the 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in Gesta Danorum and retold in the 16th century by François de Belleforest.

And while the two works share DNA, tonally and stylistically, they are opposing forces. The Northman is a film of great violence and fewer words. Eggers relies on strong and effective visuals rather than dialogue to tell his story. The screenplay (written in collaboration with the Icelandic poet, novelist, and lyricist Sjón) presents a universe of blood and blood oaths, visions and vengeance. Amleth repeats, “I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” This litany becomes the watch cry of the adult Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), whose sole purpose is to right this wrong. 

After witnessing his father’s murder,  Amleth flees. Vikings find the boy and raise him as a berserker. Years later, following a brutal Viking attack in the land of Rus, a seeress (Björk) tells the now grown Amleth he will soon have his revenge. Amleth learns that soon after the betrayal, Fjölnir was ousted. Amleth has himself branded a slave and sent to his uncle’s pastoral exile. 

While being transported, he connects with Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), a Slavic sorceress also captured in Rus. They form an alliance that becomes a bond. Eventually, she tells him, “You have the strength to break their bones; I have the cunning to break their minds.” On the Icelandic farm, Amleth discovers that his mother became Fjölnir’s wife and bore him a son, Gunnar (Elliot Rose).

The Northman is steeped in death—by arrow, axe, spear, knife, and sword. The savagery extends to slaughter, rape, and slavery. Eggers never shies from the perpetual devastation, embracing the primal existence. His hero is not the indecisive Hamlet but a warrior with a monomaniacal purpose.

Cinematically, the film is compelling and moves along, but always at the same brisk pace, both the film’s strength and weakness. The Northman never becomes “more than.” The characters never surprise because their actions alone define them, no less but no more. As they must live moment to moment, they are not individuals of nuance or subtlety, reflecting this unyielding world.

The cast uniformly delivers, but there are few complicated arcs because there is no subtext. The exception to this is Kidman’s queen, whose revelations shock Amleth. Kidman gives an unbridled and ferocious performance. 

Skarsgård manages to find different if limited shades, but Amleth’s almost unwavering focus does not provide a great number of opportunities. He states later in the story, “Hate is all I have ever known. I wish I could be free of it.” Taylor-Joy (best known for her outstanding performance in The Queen’s Gambit) mines the limited role for as much variety as possible. 

There are a few odd elements in an otherwise consistent realm. The accents seem to be rooted in some “once-upon-an-oldie-timey.” The CGI ravens that rescue Amleth seem out of step with Eggers’ hyper-reality. And in a world of dirt and mud, Olga manages to keep her nearly white dress and blonde tresses immaculate. While this could be symbolic, it is jarring.

Eggers’s attention to detail is the driving force that climaxes with a sword fight on the side of a volcano. Whether he is showing an attack, a close-up of a brooding Skarsgård calculating his next step, or drug-induced prophecies, Eggers offers a raw and brutal world in this predictable but powerful film. 

Rated R, The Northman is now playing in local theaters.

A scene from last year’s performance of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

By Sabrina Petroski

Come join the fun as the most beautiful words in the English language are given new life! In celebration of its 30th anniversary, The Carriage House Players will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet” for its annual Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport. The festival opens on June 29.

With a modern twist on two of the Bard’s most famous plays, performances will be held under the stars in the central courtyard of William K. Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest mansion, one of the last remaining Gold Coast estates on the North Shore.

The festival was the brainchild of Frederic De Feis, who ran the productions through the Arena Players until his retirement. Upon his leave, De Feis passed the reins to longtime company member and protégé, Evan Donnellan.

“[The festival] started because Fred was looking for a space to perform Shakespeare outdoors,” said Donnellan. “He found the Vanderbilt courtyard and decided to use the space because of its atmosphere and architecture, which lends itself particularly well to Shakespeare.” As executive director, Donnellan, who was part of the company for 22 years, decided to rename the troupe The Carriage House Players to “better reflect our space” as they perform in the Vanderbilt Carriage House on the museum’s grounds.

“The Carriage House Players add a delightful dimension to the Vanderbilt Museum’s creative programming throughout the year,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, in a recent email. “Every July and August, their annual Shakespeare productions are a very popular summer attraction. Their shows, presented on our outdoor stage, are enhanced by the graceful backdrop of the estate’s century-old Spanish Revival architecture.”

Jacob Wright and Michael Limone in rehearsal for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

“The Shakespeare Festival has been a main event for Long Island for three decades now and we are proud to continue the tradition,” added Donnellan who said the group chose “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” because the timeless story of love gone awry, complete with mischievous fairies and bumbling actors, will create a hilarious evening of theater filled with charm, magic and grand romantic gestures. The play will be directed by company member Christine Boehm, who has previously graced the stage as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and has directed recent productions of “The Woman in Black” and “Precious Little.” 

“With an aesthetic largely inspired by the Celtic Punk movement popularized in the 1980s with through lines discussing politics, pride in the working class and, most importantly, drinking, our ‘Midsummer’ will focus on the text’s most largely identified theme as the title suggests — a dream,” said Boehm. 

After “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” The Players will present Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, “Hamlet.” Donnellan says “the classic tale of revenge, loss, and the thirst for power, complete with glorious sword fights and ghostly visitors, will transport audiences back in time and put them right in the head of the Danish prince as he struggles to determine what is wrong and what is right.” Directed by company member, Jordan Hue, who directed “Macbeth” and “Much Ado About Nothing” at previous festivals, the show will be performed in the more classical tradition but with an emphasis on neo-futurism.   

For Donnellan, his hope is that this festival will appeal to wide audiences and introduce new theatergoers to the Bard’s genius. “Our goal is for audiences to embrace the old with the new while focusing on Shakespeare’s gorgeous prose and powerful storytelling.” 

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, will host “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from June 29 through July 29 followed by “Hamlet” from Aug. 5 through Sept. 2. Shows are held at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and 7 p.m. on Sundays, weather permitting. Running time is approximately 2 hours. Guests are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy a picnic on the grounds before the performances. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the door. For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

Steve McCoy as John Barrymore and Dylan Robert Poulos as Andrew in a scene from 'I Hate Hamlet'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh on the heels of “A Christmas Carol,” Paul Rudnick’s delightful comedy “I Hate Hamlet” rings in the New Year at Theatre Three with a touch of Shakespeare, a friendly ghost and loads of laughs, all the while examining the age-old debate about the art of live theater versus the fame of television and film.

Directed by Mary Powers, the story centers around Andrew Rally (Dylan Robert Poulos), a successful television actor on the sitcom “L.A. Medical” and the star in a series of commercials peddling breakfast cereal. When the show is suddenly canceled, Andrew moves from California to New York City to try his hand at live theater and is offered the lead role in the Central Park stage production of the tragic masterpiece, “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark.”

Above, the cast of ‘I Hate Hamlet’. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From all outward appearances, Andrew is living the good life: a beautiful girlfriend, the perfect apartment just off Washington Square and the chance to hone in on his craft by performing the works of the Bard. However, inside he is lacking confidence, his girlfriend of five months, 29-year-old Deirdre McDavey (Jessica Contino), is keeping a firm grip on her chastity leaving him frustrated, his new digs appears to be haunted and, for some reason, he just hates “Hamlet.”

When his agent Lillian Troy (Marci Bing) informs Andrew he is living in the same apartment once occupied by John Barrymore, whose portrayal of Hamlet led to him being called the “greatest living American tragedian,” Deirdre and real estate broker Felicia Dantine (Linda May) find the whole scenario too coincidental to pass up and the four conduct a séance to conjure up the dead actor. Shortly thereafter, Barrymore’s specter (Steve McCoy) appears in the apartment dressed as Hamlet and sets out to convince the insecure actor that he can and should take the part. Only visible to Andrew, producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz (Steve Ayle) and Lillian, Barrymore’s ghost cannot leave until opening night and utilizes his time teaching Andrew how to duel and to appreciate the poetry that is “Hamlet.”

When Gary offers Andrew a new role in a television pilot with the promise of millions of dollars and fame, the actor must decide between Shakespeare in the Park or commercial success. Which will he choose? That is the question.

Jessica Contino as Deidre and Steve McCoy as John Barrymore in a scene from ‘I Hate Hamlet’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Costumes are wonderful, especially the Shakespearian garb, and the set is most impressive indeed. In the first act, the two-level apartment, complete with fireplace, long staircase and balcony, is in disarray, with moving boxes scattered about, a rolled-up carpet and couches wrapped in plastic. As the lights go up in the second act, the apartment has been beautifully transformed to Barrymore’s heyday of the 1920s, bearing a remarkable resemblance to the interior of a Gothic castle.

With a stellar cast, top-notch performances and terrific script, “I Hate Hamlet” promises a lovely evening at the theater. Whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or it’s not your cup of tea, either way you’re in for a wonderful treat. Don’t miss this one.

Enjoy a drink at Griswold’s Café on the lower level of the theater and take a chance at 50/50 during intermission. Proceeds will help upgrade and maintain the historic building.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “I Hate Hamlet” through Feb. 3. Contains adult subject matter; parental discretion is advised. The Mainstage season continues with the musical comedy “Nunsense” from Feb. 24 to March 24 and the courtroom drama “12 Angry Men” from April 7 to May 5. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 students and seniors, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.