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Hamlet in Bed

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
224 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10014 40.73599 -74.001847
nr. Perry St.  See Map | Subway Directions Hopstop Popup
work212-627-2556 Send to Phone


$25 previews, $35 after previews; $10 for theater artists or those under 30; $5 students



Advance Tickets Recommended


Lisa Peterson

Nearby Subway Stops

A, B, C, D, E, F, M at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.; 1, 2, 3 at 14th St.; 1 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.

Official Website


There are no more dates for this event.


Hamlet, written some two millennia after Iphigenia in Aulis, is one of the few plays since the Greeks to permeate our culture so fully. It may have permeated Michael Laurence, an actor and playwright, a little too fully. On the evidence of his Hamlet in Bed, now at the Rattlestick, he is a man obsessed. It’s not just that Hamlet offers a handsome actor a great role; at 39, Laurence is in any case a bit long in the tooth, as the play puts it, for the twenty-ish Dane. No, it’s the Oedipal drama of the prince and his parentage that most interests the author. It turns out that Laurence — or the version of himself he puts onstage as a character called Michael — was abandoned as a baby by his birth mother. Through a series of coincidences involving a diary, he comes to believe that he has identified her as a onetime actress who, while playing Ophelia in a notable New York production some 40 years earlier, became pregnant by her Hamlet. Naturally, Michael drags her out of a drunken semi-retirement to play Gertrude in his own production, which may or may not exist.

Hamlet in Bed is clever and creepy, and Laurence makes a charismatic nutjob. (Annette O’Toole is also strong as the could-be mother.) The portions of narration written in verse are surprisingly solid, not melting in the presence of the actual Shakespeare aptly shot through the play. But the fascination of the cross-references pretty quickly pales, perhaps especially in Lisa Peterson’s stylishly noir production, leaving you with nothing but the obsession to hang on to. That’s insufficient and, at the same time, a bit much, falsely equating a mother who rightly feels she can’t take care of her child with a mother who rewards her brother-in-law for killing her husband by taking him into her “enseamed bed.” Hamlet deserves a play; I’m not sure “Michael” does. Even at only 90 minutes I began to feel I was trapped in someone’s scream-therapy session, except with doublets. Maybe it should have been 50 minutes instead.

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