Playing at Insanity and the Art of Self-Aware Fangirling: A Conversation About The Public Theater's HAMLET
In case you missed the pictures on Instagram, Kelli and Emily recently went to see The Public Theater's production of Hamlet, starring Oscar Isaac in the titular role. Without further ado (about nothing), here are their thoughts, feelings, and fangirlings about the play...
Emily: So Hamlet is this little off-Broadway play by this playwright named William Shakespeare.
Kelli: A real up-and-comer.
Emily: You might recognize him from his work on Julius Caesar earlier this summer. His work is showing a lot of promise, and I look forward to whatever he comes out with next. But okay, so like, let's be real. For like two minutes. Hamlet is Hamlet. We all know what it is. We all know what happens in it. Everyone dies (spoiler). So why did we go see this particular Hamlet production, Kelli?
Emily has already covered many of the things I loved about The National Theatre’s production of Angels in America, including Andrew Garfield’s stunning performance and questionable comments about what it means to be a gay man in America (I like RuPaul’s Drag Race, too, Andrew, and I’m not a gay man as far as I can tell). One thing Emily and I both agree on is how fantastic Harper is. As one of the few women in the play, Denise Gough shines as Harper, commanding attention each time she’s on the stage. Harper is funny, sad, and above all, strong. She also inhabits a liminal space for much of the play, a nowhere place somewhere between delusion and dream, where she meets Prior and sees visions of her husband Joe. Harper’s visions are one reason why audiences and scholars have called Angels in America magical realism, or something close to it.
I have to disagree. Magical realism, in this case, might be a way of shirking off the more painful reality of the play: Harper’s mental illness.
My thoughts about The National Theatre’s production of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes might be a little scattered. And you’re just going to have to deal with that. Way back when I was getting my MFA (which seems like forever ago, even though I know it wasn’t… but that’s neither here nor there), I wrote an awful paper about Tony Kushner’s play, so my hope is to do slightly better this time. It’s a hard play for me to write about because it’s such an ambitious work while at the same time being so personal.
Maybe the play’s ambition is why the opportunity to see it performed in its two-part eight-hour entirety has yet to present itself to me. Now thanks to the National Theatre Live, at last I’m getting to see a theatrical version of this play that I love so dearly. My only previous experience with Angels in America has been through studying it for a Contemporary Theatre class and, of course, seeing the HBO Miniseries. The Miniseries is incredible, by the way, and you should absolutely watch it if you haven’t.
But being fortunate enough to finally see this performed onstage, even broadcasted from London, was like discovering the play all over again. For this blog entry, I want to examine what struck me about seeing this version of Angels in America. In order of most important to the very most important, here is my list. I love a good list:
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The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.