Bernhardt/Hamlet Broadway Review

Playbill for Bernhardt/Hamlet on  Broadway

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Playbill for Bernhardt/Hamlet on Broadway

Christopher Ocker, Staff Writer

This last week, Mrs. Clark led the AP English Literature classes to a performance of Bernhardt/Hamlet as they study the famous Shakespeare play. The seniors who attended the trip got to see the show along with a short information session regarding the creation of the new piece.

Bernhardt/Hamlet focuses less on the Shakespeare play and more on the story about Sarah Bernhardt who attempted to play Hamlet in the late 19th century. However, there is much controversy regarding her playing the esteemed role, both because she is a woman and also because of her attempt to rewrite the play without the poetry. What makes the story incredibly interesting is the ambiguous way you can perceive Sarah as a character. While the show predominantly focuses on her, you do not necessarily need to agree with her opinions or perspective on the matter. This incredibly interesting figure is brought to life perfectly by Janet McTeer who really knows how to sell both the agreeable and disagreeable sides of Bernhardt.

While the performances and the writing is very powerful and compelling, the actual structure of the show leaves much to be desired. It feels like the show is more preoccupied with questioning its audience than presenting a complete story. This is most evident during the debating scenes where characters chat for minutes on end but don’t move the story forward in any meaningful way. Sometimes it feels as though the story is running in circles in an attempt to find something new to grasp onto (in which most of the time it fails).

Overall, Bernhardt/Hamlet is enjoyable but struggles to maintain the attention of the audience. There are terrific acting and writing at hand, but the story, it is just not compelling enough to stay interesting. The playwright of the show, Theresa Rebeck, described the ending that shows women’s inability to break the glass ceiling but it does not come across that way. Instead, it feels like the central (Sarah’s gender) does not play into the ending of Bernhardt’s story, which leaves the show very unfocused and without direction. I would recommend seeing it for the actors but the actual story told does not satisfy the price of admission.