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Some "Hamlets" have more star power, but I've seldom listened to a "Hamlet" that pulled me into the story so effectively. This is partly due to the music. It's jazzy, it's urban, it's jumping with energy. The way rap rhythms are used for the play-within-a-play is brilliant.
The play has been carefully trimmed: some of the lines have been cut, but all the scenes are here, including (thankfully) Fortinbras and his four captains who bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage. Some of the cut lines involve mythological references; others involve objects that, in this world of flushing toilets, dinging elevators, and cocking pistols, would have seemed out of place. The important thing is that the cuts are "proportional," maintaining the overall structure and pace of the play rather than simply gouging out blocks of text.
At first the American accents didn't sound "right" doing Shakespeare -- I say that even though I'm an American myself -- but the energy of the performances got me over that hurdle in short order. (It's certainly preferable to someone trying to fake the accent!) The most jarring note in the production (for me) was the casting of women as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. However, the actresses carry the roles well, and this casting choice even lends a bit of an edge to some of the racy banter between Hamlet and his old classmates.
I really like this production. It's a full-on radio play with plenty of ambient sound effects; outstanding music; and a crackerjack ensemble cast. I hope Blackstone does more like it in the future.
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