This play could have just as easily been named Hamlet in the Big Apple. The set is dark, stark and attractive, like a large studio in the warehouse district, with a bed that will eventually take center stage. The bed is symbolic, like much of the play which the actor who is also the writer admits has a “premise” more than it does a plot. We know the plot of the original just as we know the familiar threads of language brightly woven into this variation, which you might call a spin-off. The play’s the thing wherein he’ll catch the queen, the queen mother, that is, who abandoned him at birth, and for whom he has searched nearly all of his thirty-nine years.
The most vivid moments recount how a diary came into his hands, providing clues, leading him to the prime suspect, all told in film noir language. The diary tells him in the voice of a certain young actress that she played the part of Ophelia in the 70’s across from a certain actor with whom she entered a relationship, became pregnant, gave up her child, instantly regretted it, but to no avail. He learns through research that the actor committed suicide. He seeks her out, finds her, and offers her the part of his mother in the play we are watching.
The acting by both Michael Laurence and Annette O’Toole is impressive. Visual multimedia is used to minimal but good effect, but the background music, designed to guide our emotions and keep our attention seems too present and at points it feels as if there is too much language here. We want to understand and sympathize, but we also want to go back and re-read that speech we just heard, which would be possible if this were a novel.
By Michael Laurence; directed by Lisa Peterson; scenic design by Rachel Hauck; lighting design by Scott Zielinski; original music and sound design by Bart Fasbender; props master, Zachary Serafin; costume design, Jessica Pabst; projections design, Dave Tennent; production stage manager, Michal V. Mendelson; fight director, J. David Brimmer; production manager, Jeremy David Pape; assistant stage manager, Emily Paige Ballou.
With: Michael Laurence; Annette O’Toole
At Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (224 Waverly Place, New York City — 212 627-2556) through September 17. Monday, Wednesday, Sunday 7PM; Thursday thru Saturday, 8pm.