The best show in town this month is in Central Park. The Public Theater’s outdoor version of “Romeo and Juliet” is contemporary in flavor, visually striking, crisply staged and emotionally direct–everything, in short, that a Shakespeare in the Park production should be, right down to the no-holds-barred swordplay. It also marks the arrival of a new star in the theatrical sky: Lauren Ambrose, lately of “Six Feet Under,” who made a strong Broadway debut in last year’s revival of “Awake and Sing” and now confirms that she is an extravagantly gifted stage actress whose potential appears to be unlimited….
Unlike the Public’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s modern-dress “Hamlet” is sabotaged by its youth-friendly, obtrusively clever high concept: It’s all about teen angst. Director Michael Kahn gives us a pouty blond Prince of Denmark (Jeffrey Carlson) who whines his way from scene to scene, brandishing a bottle of pills (Prozac, no doubt) as he lurches into his soliloquy on suicide. Earlier we see him reading A. Alvarez’s “The Savage God: A Study of Suicide,” a directorial touch that deserves some sort of prize for pretentiousness….
John Van Druten is one of the forgotten men of American theater. Twenty of his plays opened on Broadway between 1925 and 1952, but until now none of them has been revived there, not even such long-running hits as “The Voice of the Turtle” or “I Remember Mama.” Now the Roundabout Theatre Company has exhumed “Old Acquaintance,” a 1940 comedy that was bought by Hollywood three years later and turned into an unmemorable vehicle for Bette Davis. I went to see it mainly out of curiosity–but stayed to cheer. Far from being a musty old relic, “Old Acquaintance” is a fabulously well-made play that has lost nothing of its freshness and bite….
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