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A CurtainUp Review
Hamlet: An Exploration

Everybody has a story—and this is mine..— Storyteller
Matt de Rogatis and Jay Michaels' Hamlet: An Exploration is presented by the New Jersey-based Nine Theatricals company in a brief run at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre. It retells Shakespeare's Hamlet as a parable that has roots in the Bible, ancient Icelandic tales, Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, (the lost) Ur-Hamlet--to mention a few.

Sound like a hodge-podge of literature stuffed into one piece? Well, yes and no. De Ragatis and Michael add a narrator, ably performed by the actor RJ Lamb, who serves as our tour guide for this experimental work. A fellow spectator during the play, Lamb rises from his seat at crucial junctures during the performance to comment on Hamlet's cultural foundation, its manifestations in literature, and the enigmatic work itself. Though not everything Lamb says is original, he s a natural raconteur.

De Rogatis is crackling good in the titular role. A few other cast members nail their supporting parts: Lorraine Mattox, as the young Ophelia, deftly covers the poles of her character's personality, which goes from dewy innocence early on to horrific disillusionment following her father Polonius' murder. For her famous mad scene, Mattox enters from the back of the theater and saunters down the center aisle to the performing space and then goes insane, singing snatches of bawdy songs and nonsense to the royal couple and Laertes.

Greg Pragel as Horatio is not only the Prince's confidante but scribe, diligently scribbling down his friend's perceptive words as they travel together through the shadowlands of Elsinore. Special notice to Vanessa Altshuler for her gender-bending and sassy interpretation of Guildenstern. Instead of playing the character as a vapid yes-man to Claudius, she shows some spirit and injects some welcome comic relief into this dark play.

David Arthur Bachrach as Claudius tends to fall into a sing-song pattern with his iambic pentameters. And Linda S. Nelson's Gertrude, seems too emotionally distant from her stage husband. Perhaps Nelson could try a peck on the cheek or some hand-holding with Claudius, now and then, to warm up the scenes where they appear together.

The creative team does much with little. The only prop is a throne, Yorick's skull for the grave-digging scene, and fencing swords for Hamlet and Laertes' tragic duel at play's end. Still, each is used inventively, as is every nook and cranny of space.

This experimental theater work that is free-wheeling and loose-limbed in its structure. There's a clunk, now and then in the theatrical machinery, but if you suspend your disbelief, and are truly attentive to the storyteller's words, this piece will coalesce in your imagination.

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Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Adapted by Matt de Rogatis and Jay Michaels
Directed by Jay Michaels
Cast: Matt de Rogatis (Hamlet) David Arthur Bachrach (Claudius), Linda S. Nelson (Queen Gertrude), Lorraine Mattox (Ophelia), Jim Kempnor (Polonius), Brian Patrick Murphy (Laertes), Greg Pragel (Horatio), Milton Elliott (The Ghost), Ali Stover (Rosencrantz), Vanessa Altshuler (Guildenstern, RJ Lamb (Storyteller).
Graphic Designer: Michael Loupos
Photography/video: Chris Loupos
Sculptor: Shane Vannest
Costumes: Maya Luz Molina-Araujo
Lighting: Maryam Penelope Sweirki
Fight Choreography: Michael Hagins
Stage Manager: Mario Claudio
www.13th Street Repertory Theatre, 50 West 13th Street. Tickets: $20. Phone or visit online at or
From 7/13/16; closing 7/24/16.
July 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd @8pm July 16th, 17th, 23rd and 24th @3pm.
Running time: 3 hours and 15 minutes with two intermissions
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on matinee performance of 7/17/16

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