By Holli Harms

"Hamlet," adapted and directed by Celeste Moratti, presented by First Maria at Teatro Circulo, NYC, March 4 to 20, 2016.  Alexander Sovronsky (Hamlet).  Photo by Farnaz Taherimotlagh.

“Hamlet,” Alexander Sovronsky (Hamlet). Photo by Farnaz Taherimotlagh.

HAMLET is often described as a play of vengeance. Vengeance on a father murdered. Vengeance aimed, not just at the supposed murderer in Claudius, but at the assumed conspirators Gertrude and Ophelia and all that are their sex. Vengeance.

HAMLET is also about death. Death and how we maneuver around it, towards it, and away from it. Prince Hamlet is trying to understand this part of living, it is life’s biggest mystery and  something we are drawn to and at the same time repulsed by.

In Karl Ove Knausgaard’s novel My Struggle Book 1, he begins with the conundrum of humans and death. On one side we love to hear about it, read about it, movies with killings tend to do best at the box office, but on the other side of the coin, the side of reality, we want to hide it, hide from it, keep it away, far away. It’s why plastic surgery is so prevalent. Keep looking young and death will be fooled.

In her directorial debut Celeste Moratti has touched on this very thing. The opposites of death. The life of death.

To choose HAMLET as your launch into the directing world is a bold choice, a ‘jump into the water and hope you do not drown” choice and for the most part Moratti has succeeded in this committed decision.

Her principal move is to bring musicians, Francesco Santalucia and Papaceccio, onstage with the actors creating additional rhythms to Shakespeare’s music of words.  Even Hamlet plays the violin, which in that single gesture creates another aspect of Hamlet I have never seen explored, Hamlet the artist, the entertainer.

The play is set in the round so that every space on stage is occupied by both actors and audience, props and sets – behind, in front, on the sides. It is a clever way to keep entrances and exits in a space where none exist. It works for the most part, but I was at times pulled out of the play by the distraction of actors moving behind the audience from one spot to another, even though they were in cloaks of black to keep them as neutral as possible.

Alexander Sovronsky is first-rate as the Prince of Denmark. He is intriguing, affable, unpredictable, humorous, dangerous. Doria Bramante plays Ophelia, a difficult task indeed. The character’s emotional journey is one that goes from balanced to crazy in the blink of an eye. Not easy to go from 1 to 300 like that, but Bramante not only pulls it off, she does it with such “womanly” conviction that she ascends expectations. Nina Ashe and Ross Hamman are terrific in all that they play on stage including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The entire cast are solid in their performances.

Here is hoping that Celeste Moratti continues on this trajectory of directorial discoveries.

March 4 to 20, 2016
Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street (betw. Bowery & 2nd Ave., E. Village)
Presented by First Maria LLC
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2:30 PM
$18 gen. Adm., $13 seniors and students
Box office: Smarttix (212) 8868-4444
Running time: two hours with intermission. Show’s website: