Visual wizardry — and not the play — is the thing in “Elsinore,” Canadian actor/writer/director Robert Lepage’s more-or-less one-man dissection (or reduction) of Shakespeare’s longest play, “Hamlet.” Technical sleight of hand is the be-all and end-all of the show, and, indeed, there are many moments of astonishment as scenery lifts, drops and tilts, and live and video action are combined.
But the adaptation is short on intellectual nourishment or insight, and the acting lacks vocal and emotional stature. The curious result resembles a college production with a huge budget for sets and effects.
“Elsinore” began life in 1995 with the director himself performing, and this production has English actor Peter Darling replacing Lepage on stage. (Following its Stamford run, the show will play the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Majestic Theater Oct. 7-12 and then go on to Dublin and Madrid.)
Technically, “Elsinore” is remarkable, and Darling, who plays Hamlet and almost all of the other characters, male and female, deserves credit for coping so valiantly with a set that’s constantly on the move. He climbs, hangs, crawls and ultimately is swallowed (literally) by the physical production. Flanking and sometimes concealing the set are screens on which projections and videos are shown.
The action is accompanied by a soundscape of noises, fanfares and stretches of portentous movie-music, beginning with a disembodied voice intoning the speech by the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Bits and pieces of the play follow as the set, videos and soundscape keep busy, with Darling, who has a tendency to rant, scrambling to keep up. He projects more of a working-class English punk than a Danish royal, but Lepage seems more interested in effects than Shakespearean poetry anyway. The adapter-director seems to have spent far more time working with his designers and technical staff than on illuminating his text.