directed by Celeste Moratti,
To share an outstanding production of the 2013 Hamlet Marathon in Milan, Italy with a wider audience, First Maria LLC will present Shakespeare's "Hamlet," directed by Celeste Moratti and performed by a mixed American-Italian company, March 4 to 20, 2016 at Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street, Manhattan. The production trims politics out of the plot in order to emphasize each character's role as either a child or a parent, highlighting mistakes of mothers and fathers and the conflicts in children between filial duty and the emergence of conscience. The performance is entirely in English.
The production is set in late '70s to early '80s, during the wave of hedonism that abruptly ended with AIDS. That's meant to frame the play in an awakening of conscience—especially in Hamlet, played by Alexander Sovronsky, but also in everyone else. The elders of the play are either overwhelmingly present or, in the case of Hamlet's father, absent to the point of being a ghostly image of himself. It's meant to be seen as a coming-of-age tale for a sheltered child who in a critical instance receives from his father an impossible order. There is a five-person greek-style chorus and live music by two Italian musicians, Francesco Santalucia and Papaceccio.
This "Hamlet" is the directorial debut of Celeste Moratti, an Italian-born actress who is hitherto best known for both realistic and surrealistic leading roles in the "Pathological Theater" productions of Dario D'Ambrosi. Her vision is informed by her work at La MaMa and The Living Theater. She first achieved widespread notice for her starring role in "Days of Antonio" (La MaMa, 2007), a play based on the real incident of an insane boy who had been raised in a henhouse. The New York Times (Jason Zinoman) credited her with "a boldly feral performance of a boy stuck between the worlds of the sane and the mentally ill and the human and the animal." She reprised this role in the play's film rendition, which was completed in Italy in 2010. In July 2009, she starred in a realistic thriller by D'Ambrosi, "Night Lights," which was a site-specific performance on the block between Washington Street between Spring Street and Canal Street in SoHo. The play portrayed a precarious liaison between a female university professor and a male ex-convict in a city street. It inaugurated an original genre of live performance called The Drive-In Stage™, in which the audience of 40 viewed the live action from within parked cars, listening with headsets. Last fall, she played the title character in D'Amrosi's version of Euripides' "Medea" at Wilton's Music Hall in London and at La MaMa, NYC. That production included a chorus of ten actors with diverseabilities (including epilepsy, neurological disabilities and down syndrome) from D'Ambrosi's Teatro Patologico di Roma. She is a member of The Living Theater, which which she performed "Red Noir," directed by Judith Malina in 2009. She is a graduate of the Stella Adler Conservatory, NYC and has also appeared OOB at Medicine Show Theatre, ADK Shakespeare Company and Titan Theatre Company. Her films also include "L'Uomo Gallo" by Dario D'Ambrosi (2010), "My Mother’s Fairy Tales" by Paola Romagnani (Simmia Productions, 2006), "Fight the Panda Syndicate" by Jason J. Dale (Crazy Elk Productions, 2009) and "Traffickers" by Sean F. Roberts, Jr. (Pitbull Shadow Productions, 2014), which she co-produced. It was an official selection of the prestigious Courmayeur Noir Film Festival in December 2015.
The production was originally produced by Milan's Teatro Franco Parenti in September, 2013 as the final production in the theater's "Hamlet Marathon" which featured Hamlets from around the world. Corriere Della Sera (Maurizio Porro) reported that Moratti's production echoed Peter Brook's essential "Hamlet." La Repubblica (Sara Chiappori) called it "A coming of age tale, a young man so far devoid of responsibilities who has to deal with the terrible consequences that becoming a man entail." Giornale Metropolitano (Vincent Sardelli) called it a metaphor of human development, zeroing in on "the most a-temporal and universally relatable aspect of the play: parents and children, the former either too present or micromanaging or absent to the point of becoming ghosts; children who pay with their skin for their parents' mistakes." That 2013 "Hamlet" was a production of Hyperion Theatre Company, of which Moratti was co-producer at the time. Hyperion had presented a "Midsummer Night's Dream" at Teatro Franco Parenti in 2011, directed by Michael Pauley, in which Moratti played Titania. Moratti's goal in re-mounting "Hamlet" in New York is to test her unusual adaptation on an American audience while most of her original cast could be reassembled. She is launching her own theater company, First Maria LLC, with this production.
Celeste Moratti is a new mother and considers this production an extended meditation on being a parent as well as a child. She says, "I gave myself Gertrude to play, initially thinking the character was a selfish woman. Then I re-read the play and now I sympathize with her. She's a protective mother. She married Claudius out of her need for safety when her husband died. She thought the best way to keep herself and her son in the palace was to marry Claudius. She doesn't see her mistake."
Moratti says her concept of Hamlet's family is not particularly Danish. She grew up the eldest child in a large Italian family, but distanced from it. Still she identifies with Hamlet, especially that side of the story about a child not cut out to be king, whose tough-minded father actually had given up on him, only to recall him from the grave, demanding "be like me—avenge my death." She also notes that his penchant for theatrics is very Italian. Her Polonius is not the familiar bumbling fool of many productions. Rather, he is a stressed-out father bringing up kids in a "shark tank," with high expectations for is son and protective of his daughter, doing everything he can to keep both of them under his wing. Asked if her concept of parenting is more Italian or American, Moratti answers that the powerful Italian family is always her prototype ("so much nuance, so much drama!"), but that the idea of taking responsibility for the family name is very American and that children are put up to this responsibility from an early age.
The actors are Alexander Sovronky as Hamlet, Celeste Moratti as Gertrude, Michael S. Kaplan as Polonius, J.B. Alexander as Claudius, Doria Bramante as Ophelia, Tristan Colton as Laertes, Nina Ashe as Rosencrantz/ Marcella/ Player Queen, Ross Hamman as Guildenstern/Barnardo/Player King/Gravedigger and Collin Mcconnell as Horatio. Additional chorus work is by Markus Weinfurter. Live music will be performed by Francesco Santalucia and Papaceccio.
Alexander Sovronsky (Hamlet) is a classics specialist who appeared on Broadway in "Cyrano de Bergerac" (starring Kevin Kline) and in "Romeo & Juliet" and "Measure for Measure" for NYSF/The Public. Other credits include "Othello" (TFANA), "Bottom of the World" (Atlantic), "Women Beware Women" and "Volpone" (Red Bull); "Romeo & Juliet," "Macbeth," "Marat/Sade" and "King Lear" (Classical Theater of Harlem); "The Little Prince" (Hang A Tale); "Cyrano de Bergerac" (Resonance Ensemble) and "As You Like It" (Happy Few Theatre Co.). Regionally, he has appeared at Shakespeare Theatre of NJ, Shakespeare Theater Co., Ford’s Theater, Actors Shakespeare Project, Wharton Salon, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Walnut Street, and seven seasons with Shakespeare & Company. (www.AlexanderSovronsky.com)
Musicians Francesco Santalucia and Papaceccio will both always be onstage, creating an additional rhythm for the language with supportive music. For example, in Ophelia's funeral, it is composed by turning the consonants of the words into percussive instruments and vowels into melodic instruments. At other times, the music will be a wave of narrative instruments, suggesting the river when Ophelia drowns. The Chorus will be another character in the play, linking scenes together and providing continuity. The play's action is compressed into the throne room, whose floor bears outlines of fallen bodies, the cutouts foreshadowing the play's tragic ending. The throne transforms into part of the body of the ghost and later, will become the tree that Ophelia falls from into the water. The walls and floor will bear texts and figurative drawings, giving the sense that the characters are "writing their own destiny." The audience will be invited to inspect this intricate labyrinth of clues before and after the play.
Photos by Ruth Sovronsky.