Friday, March 09, 2007

Northern California Jewish News: "Allusions in ‘Hamlet’ haunt modern Israelis"

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” an officer declares in a Hebrew version of “Hamlet,” and the Israeli audience shifts uncomfortably in its seats.

In this modern version of the Shakespeare classic, the audience and the actors are acutely aware of how relevant the centuries-old tale of corruption and tragedy feels at a time of deep national malaise in Israel because of several high-level government scandals and questions about how last summer’s war in Lebanon was handled.

Director Omri Nitzan compares Hamlet’s indecision to the very questions the nation has faced since it came into existence — for example, whether or not to strike forcefully and immediately at those who might threaten the country, or consider a more cautious range of responses while weighing the moral consequences of any action.

Nitzan said the production is very Israeli in its nature with its frenzied tempo, emotional pull and political sensitivity.

The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv is bringing its production of “Hamlet,” now in its second year of sold-out performances, to the American stage for the first time in early March. It will be performed at the Shakespeare in Washington Festival in Washington, D.C., following several performances at Shakespeare festivals in Europe.

Performed in modern dress against the backdrop of rock and other contemporary music, the production fully involves its audience, which takes in the play from long rows alongside a stage set up like a catwalk.

Spectators sit in swivel chairs to see the action, which surrounds them from the main stage as well as all sides of the theater. The play is in Hebrew — in Washington, an English translation will appear on the walls.

The Cameri decided to stage a contemporary Israeli version of “Hamlet” more than two years ago, as the country was preparing for the withdrawal of Jewish settlements and army troops from the Gaza Strip. At the time there were fears the pullout might lead to massive violence between settlers and their supporters against security forces — fighting that might even lurch into a civil war.

The conflict within one political family that led to bloodshed and a type of civil war on stage in “Hamlet” inspired the theater to stage the production.

Today the political landscape has shifted and a wave of corruption scandals is preoccupying the country. [...]
Alas, poor Yorick, al de'ateift atfuch.

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