Mom Theatre Blogger: Hamlet in Bed: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

photo credit: Tristan Fuge

photo credit: Tristan Fuge

 “An actor and an actress perform a play.  The actor and the actress may or may not be mother and son, and they may or may not know it. You know the play, the play is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Yes, ‘that’ mother and son.”  Michael Laurence, who stars in and wrote Hamlet in Bed, enlightens the audience with these spoken words as he sets the stage for his intense, thought-provoking, at times humorous,  90 minute (no intermission) play, making it’s world premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre.

Directed by Lisa Peterson, also featured in the cast of two is Annette O’Toole.  Both turn in strong, emotional, nuanced, multi-layered performances.

Michael is a neurotic actor and adoptee obsessed with finding his real mother and playing Hamlet. He stumbles on Anna’s journal in a thrift shop and tracks down the  reclusive former actress-turned-barfly; gripped by the notion that she might be his birth mother.  He entices her to join a dark production of Hamlet playing the role of his mother the queen, and things go from there.

Michael Laurence (Playwright/Michael) is the playwright/performer of Krapp, 39 (Drama Desk nomination), which played Off-Broadway (Soho Playhouse), in London (Tristan Bates Theatre), and in Dublin (Axis Ballymun). He is also the author of the plays The Escape Artist and Virgil’s Cauldron, and the writer/director of the independent feature film Escape Artists. As an actor, Michael’s stage credits include Talk Radio (Broadway) and Desire Under the Elms (Broadway), the New York premieres of The Few (Rattlestick), Appropriate (Signature), Opus (Primary Stages), The Morini Strad (Primary Stages), Horsedreams (Rattlestick), Diary of a Teenage Girl (New Georges/3LD); the Off-Broadway revivals of Two Rooms (Platform Group), Tooth of Crime and Book of Days (Signature). Other credits include John Proctor in The Crucible (Hartford Stage), Good People (Huntington), Starbuck in The Rainmaker (Arena Stage), Eric Bogosian’s Humpty Dumpty (McCarter), Edgar Oliver’s Hands In Wartime (LaMama), and Jean Genet’s Splendid’s (CDN Orleans/ tour of France).

Annette O’Toole (Anna) Off-Broadway & Regional: Third (Two River Theatre); Southern Comfort (Barrington Stage Company & Cap21); Heresy (The Flea Theater); Kindness (Playwrights Horizons); The Seagull (CSC); The Quality of Life (Arena Stage); Magnolia (The Goodman Theatre); Yankee Wives, and Sun Bearing Down (Old Globe Theatre). Film & TV include: We Go On, 48 HRS, Smile, Superman III, Cat People, One on One, Halt and Catch Fire, 11.22.63, Battle Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Lie to Me, Smallville, Nash Bridges, The Kennedys of Massachusetts (Emmy, Golden Globe nominations). Academy Award nomination for Best Song with Michael McKean for “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” from the movie A Mighty Wind.

Laurence delivers a commanding, confident performance, and the complex script, while at times feeling a bit convoluted, leaves one with much to ponder.

O’Toole (of whom I have long been a fan), goes the distance in this talk-heavy production.  Whether delivering gut-wrenching screams, acting feline, pulling out the sexy stops, or showing her vulnerability, we can’t take out eyes off her.

The stark, but well utilized set design is by Rachel Hauck; costume design is by Jessica Pabst; lighting design is by Scott Zielinski; sound design is by Bart Fasbender; projection design is by Dave Tennent; fight director is J. David Brimmer. The production manager is Jeremy Duncan Pape; the production stage manager is Michal Mendelson; the assistant stage manager is Emily Ballou.

Hamlet In Bed plays Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday at 7pm; Thursday through Saturday at 8pm at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, west of Seventh Avenue South, between Perry and West 11 Streets. Tickets may be purchased by visiting or by phoning OvationTix at 866.811.4111.   The production runs through Sunday, October 25.

If you haven’t seen or read Hamlet in some time, Hamlet in Bed will tickle your Shakespearean fancy and renew or instill some curiosity.  No “Get thee to a nunnery” is spoken here…. but I hope that O’Toole will get there to more stage opportunities.

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