Gertrude: The Cry

Gertrude: The Cry
by Howard Barker
produced by PTP/NYC (Potomac Theater Project)
directed by Richard Romagnoli
Gertrude – Pamela J. Gray
Hamlet – David Barlow

The Potomac Theater Project has produced a play by Howard Barker called Gertrude – The Cry. It’s is a riff on Hamlet focusing on Gertrude’s sexuality. That’s about it. Both Gertrude and the play have little to offer besides an obsession with sex.

The script has only a rudimentary resemblance to Hamlet. Only Hamlet, Gertrude and Claudius remain from Shakespeare; Gertrude and Claudius never marry. And there are new characters introduced. Gertrude marries the Duke of Mecklenberg. Hamlet marries a character named Ragusa. Claudius’ mother also shows up. It’s ridiculous, but the play takes itself enormously seriously.

The script might be free verse; it’s written with repetition of words and short phrases that we expect from verse. Director Richard Romagnoli has made interesting choices. He deliberately distances the characters. He presents us not with people, but with animated statues, cold and sexualized. The performers aren’t absorbed in the characters and neither are we.

This isn’t acting, it’s recitation We’re given a rush of words with set, exaggerated pitch melody, purposely divorced from feeling. The actors make no attempt to communicate with one another emotionally; indeed, they have no emotional life at all..

This hyperintellectual style is interesting indeed, but it makes for a boring production. And when the play isn’t being dull, it’s insufferably vulgar, peppered with obscene acts.

In general, the cast is serviceable, having been given little to do. However, David Barlow gives a very fine performance as Hamlet, the redeeming element of the show. Hamlet observes himself in just the way the play observes itself, but Mr. Barlow endows the attitude with life and even humor. Hamlet is, as he says himself, infantile, and his self-referencing is intelligent and a relief from the rest of the play.

Steve Capra
July 2014

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