By Michael Reubens
There’s something explosive happening right now on stage by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway. And that is Acclaimed British actress Janet McTeer who brings to life a stunning and highly-charged French actress, Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923).
Bernhardt was way ahead of her time, a time when women were treated as subservient and no way entrepreneurs – especially running her own theatre in Paris – which she did, and very successfully.
Among her many roles were Medea and Camille but it is Theresa Rebeck the playwright, that channels McTeer into Bernhardt as the gender-bender Hamlet.
And McTeer does just that with aplomb and nuance as the play within a play unravels. In rehearsal, her love affair with the plays married director, playing Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac, the passion, emotion and anger that ebbs and flows, the tears and jubilation that follows, and the sadness and depression one senses throughout the piece.
Janet McTeer is brilliant in her portrayal. Bernhard/Hamlet could even be staged as a one-hander, there’s an enormous amount of illusion and theatricality to go around.
Bernhardt in real life was quoted as saying that as a 55 year old female playing a 19 year old Shakespearean Prince of Denmark didn’t concern her in the slightest. “Its male brains that I prefer ” she quipped. And “no one upstages me”.
McTeer is supported by a great ensemble company and I can’t wait to see Glenda Jackson return to Broadway next year as King Kear. Yet another female to male version of a Classic. Makes a nice change.
American Airlines theatre
227 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.