The classic Shakespearean play without alteration. 

In this production, Hamlet is played by Sean McNall.  Most serious actors who are wiling to learn lots of lines have played this role.  It is probably the best known part in the best known play by the best known playwright in history.  And there is little to be gained by comparing Mr. McNall with Olivier or Redgrave or any of the other famous actors who have done it.  Each conveys the tortured Prince of Denmark in his own way.  Mr. McNall is entirely believable in the role and makes some surprising choices.  The most famous soliloquy by the most famous character in the most famous play…  OK, I said that already…  The TO Be Or Not To Be speech is understated where most pour their histrionic souls into these lines.  McNall does not.  Yet the conflict and frustration, self-doubt and rage are intact, menacing and predictive of the denouement which will soon erupt to leave the stage littered with the bodies of innocent and guilty alike. 

A nice piece of work by a talented actor, well-supported for the most part by the rest of the cast.  There are a couple of weaker performances, but Jolly Abraham as Ophelia and Robert Hock as the leader of the acting troop (and also the gravedigger) shine alongside Sean McNall.  Something I especially liked about his portrayal was how effectively he portrayed a man flirting with madness yet always lucid as his life crisis approached.  Unlike the hapless Ophelia who can not handle the pressure and seems truly to lose it, Hamlet never does, and McNall understands this;  not too shabby for such a young actor.  Look for him on Broadway in the not distant future.

The Pearl Theatre at 80 St. Marks Place specializes in the classics.  Later this season (their 24th) will be Ibsen’s Ghosts and Oscar Wilde’s classic “The Importance of Being Earnest.” For a full schedule call the theatre at (212) 598-9802.