Off-Broadway Review: EDDIE IZZARD’S HAMLET (Greenwich House Theater)

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by Paola Bellu on February 11, 2024

in Theater-New York

THIS TOO TOO SOLID HAMLET
RESOLVES ITSELF INTO A HIT

It must be the Season of different takes on the Bard in New York; Greg Mullavey is appearing in a shortened King Lear, and Patrick Page’s All the Devils Are Here is an unforgettable solo voyage into Shakespeare’s abyss, and Suzie Eddie Izzard, at Greenwich House Theater, is providing us with another exquisite treat with her ambitious, fast-paced Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet, which opened last night.

Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Izzard is already one of the most talented stand-up comedians of our time, an accomplished versatile actor, and the only one I know who can perform in three languages. She is also a caring politician in England, a philanthropist (she has run more than 100 marathons for charity) and all of it eventually was not enough, she has been steering her career toward the classics to improve her craft and divulge them to a new public.

Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet (photo by Amanda Searle)

Last year, Izzard ended a sold-out run playing 21 characters in a solo presentation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. With the same director and collaborator Selina Cadell, Izzard courageously tackles one of the most complex tragedies, Hamlet, inhabiting almost all its characters, 23 in all — that’s 15,000 words to memorize and deliver. From its accidental hero, Hamlet, to helpless Ophelia, from calculating Claudius to shallow Gertrude, Izzard is flawless. She characterizes each role with a different tone of voice and appropriate movements; then a pirouette, a turn of the head, a quick run, and she transforms from evil into pure, and everything in between. A special mention goes to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played by Izzard’s right and left hands turned inwards; every time they came up, the audience roared with laughter.

Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Adapted by Izzard’s brother, Mark IzzardIzzard’s Hamlet brings back the Globe’s tradition of audience engagement. No props, one costume, a dark swing jacket with black leather pants to remind us of the past. The set is an empty stone square with pink undertones; the lights are subtle and include the public, making us all part of the play. (Sets, Tom Piper; lighting, Tyler Elich; costume styling Piper and Libby DaCosta; and movement direction by DidiHopkins.)

Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet (photo by Amanda Searle)

Everything is based on Izzard’s delivery and perfect diction — her best skills — and the experiment absolutely works, although I found myself missing her famous stream-of-consciousness, and I almost wished she introduced each part. The play could use a few stage tricks to make it more accessible to a younger audience, or people who do not go to the theater — the intended targets, I imagine — but it still is a one-of-a-kind experience, and I definitely recommend it.

Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet (photo by Carol Rosegg)

Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet
WestBeth Entertainment, Mick Perrin Worldwide, and John Gore
Greenwich House Theatre, 27 Barrow Street in New York
ends on March 3, 2024 EXTENDED to March 16, 2024
for tickets, visit Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet

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