Review by NICK RHEINWALD-JONESJune 15, 2018 certified reviewer
What I liked
Hamlet is one of the most complex characters (and stories) in history, and L/H/O certainly faces an uphill battle in compressing all of that into roughly a third the length of the original play. But this magnificent trio of writer-director-performers pulls it off, crafting a show that’s tight, efficient, and refreshingly natural and un-stagey.
I’ve seen a lot of different people portray Hamlet over the years, and until I saw this show, Benedict Cumberbatch was my favorite. He’s now a close second. Katelyn Schiller’s performance is magnetic, funny, and deeply uncomfortable in all the best ways. I think it took a woman playing Hamlet to finally, definitively, expose all the worst parts of the character’s entitled maleness, and I only wish I could see Katelyn do the original role in full.
Kelley Pierre makes Ophelia more believable and sympathetic than Shakespeare’s version, as well as a lot smarter, which makes her struggle in refusing to be a victim all the more affecting and meaningful.
And Payden Ackerman’s Laertes provides often-unsettling comic relief as the anxious peacemaker friend who refuses to let go of his optimism even in the face of obvious disaster. A lot of the PTSD that Shakespeare imbued Ophelia with in the original has been transferred to Laertes for L/H/O, and it works beautifully.
What I didn't like
I don’t want to give too much away, but L/H/O’s ending is even more devastating than that of the original play… while leaving a little bit of room for the story to continue. And I really wish it could have continued, because if this were a Netflix drama I’d happily spend no less than eight hours a day binging on it.
My overall impression
It’s Hamlet made more accessible, more fun, more painful, and a thousand times more real. And they get it all done in an hour. Take that, Shakespeare!