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Hamlet (Public Theater)

From 37 critic and 133 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing, Intelligent, Clever

About the show

Oscar Isaac ('Star Wars: The Force Awakens,' 'Inside Llewyn Davis') returns to The Public for this intimate new production of Shakespeare’s eternal drama. More…

Hamlet is caught between thought and action, anger and anguish as his uncle assumes the throne left vacant by his murdered father. As the dead King calls to him from the grave, demanding to be avenged, Hamlet is forced to choose between bearing the oppressor’s wrong or taking arms against a sea of troubles. Tony Award winner Sam Gold ('Fun Home,' 'Othello') directs theater’s most famous tragedy about life and death, madness and conscience, and corruption—of the state and of the soul.

New York Magazine / Vulture

“Disarmingly brilliant…This ‘Hamlet’ engages us in a game that makes us contemplate the very nature of performing…The heart of Gold’s production — and its genius — lies in its obsession with the paradox of the Honest Performance…Isaac, at once mischievous and deeply soulful, is exceedingly good…It is the mark of a deeply intelligent production when it makes you hear anew a work encrusted with so many barnacles of historical, literary, and theatrical precedent.” Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"Burton’s ghost is happy...What Isaac and Gold have crafted here is the closest we are ever going to get in the 21st century to that landmark production...Gold just focuses on the language, the narrative, and forming an ensemble that will fully inhabit the world of the play. He succeeds...Isaac's is fully as realized a performance as we are likely to get...He is surrounded by a cast equal to his talents...This is a celebration of 'Hamlet'...It needs to be seen." Full Review

Vanity Fair

"Gold’s ‘Hamlet’ has a simple, tactile charge, one that truly, in the least corny of senses, brings Shakespeare to life. The production is given extra, invaluable electricity by its star, whose crisply legible, fiercely intelligent performance confirms for me what I’ve long suspected: Oscar Isaac is the best dang actor of his generation...Gold’s production leaves us room to think, to really contemplate this revered play in unexpected ways...An invigorating approach to Shakespeare." Full Review

The New York Times

"A gloriously involving new production...The show’s intimidating four hours pass as quickly as a night at a bar with some of the best storytellers you’ve ever met...The troubled relationships of the extended family of Elsinore have rarely read so clearly or affectingly...The nine actors in the ensemble deliver such a completely inhabited performance that I didn’t feel restless, as I usually do, when Hamlet wasn’t around...Some interpolations give pause." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Gold has created something that draws us in and brings us close. It’s like we see something old through new eyes, and the intimacy created makes us believe we can feel their breath and hear their sighs...Gold’s tremendous ability to find a unique and challenging way to rethink the classics is what compels this strong cast to create something so intimate and powerfully engaging...An inventive director with a seemingly exacting eye on the thing that matters most: the text." Full Review

Front Row Center

"It’s a brilliant contemporary take on this classic, with a genuine star in the lead and a genius directing...Oscar Isaac is riveting in the title role...He inhabits and invigorates the troubled young prince...Gold gives Friedman a lot of room. I’ve never seen Polonius played more engagingly...In this version, tragic or not, we laugh a lot...Grim, to be sure, but genuine fun in this go ‘round...It is too long, to be sure, but too good to miss." Full Review


"An extremely entertaining production that's full of cleverness (admittedly, sometimes too-cleverness) that whizzes by its running time of nearly four hours...Despite some unpredictably over-the-top ideas, the fine ensemble never loses touch with the serious emotions of Shakespeare's masterpiece. This may not be a 'Hamlet' for first-timers, but it's fun, daring and just a bit weird.” Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Isaac has a slow-burn smolder and a confident clarity with the verse...This 'Hamlet' is even further deconstructed than Gold’s recent recent 'Othello.' Like the varied performance styles, it rarely coheres into a cogent interpretation of the play...Frankly, there’s a lot here that resists explanation...You won’t feel foot-dragging here, even though the pacing can race and slack. Instead, you get a production that questions and dares, teases and deflects. That’s exciting, but also frustrating." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Gold’s 'Hamlet' forsakes grandeur in favor of small moments of clarity. Its focus is on theatricality, comedy and language...'Hamlet' features some wonderfully vivid performances: from Isaac, who gives Hamlet a sometimes ruthless charm; but also from the superb Peter Friedman and Ritchie Coster...The production occasionally gets muddy...If this 'Hamlet' is rarely emotionally moving, it is never less than engaging." Full Review

Theater News Online

"Deeply satisfying: coolly conceptual but grounded in palpable, messy passions, with Shakespeare’s miraculous text spoken with clarity and power...Gold’s 'Hamlet' is the most family-obsessed I can recall...As rendered with genuine fire and smoldering intelligence by Isaac, Hamlet comes across first and foremost as a grieving son...The language is front and center, spoken with admirable lucidity and clarity...A 'Hamlet' that engages the audience’s imagination and intellect." Full Review

Daily Beast

"This production is distinguished by a bracing tour-de-force performance of Isaac...How challenging it is to find something new and resonant in these well-known lines for both actors and director, yet this 'Hamlet' does it...There are some odd gaps in the production...But Isaac’s arresting performance means that we stay rapt until Hamlet’s very last breath, and Shakespeare’s very last word. It is a long evening for sure, but also a beguilingly off-kilter, rewardingly rich one." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

"Isaac’s performance is the high point of this inventive, exhaustive production...This modern, minimalist staging runs for three hours and 45 minutes and rarely rarely lags. Call it the Grunge Hamlet...What’s remarkable is how successfully the play’s tragic elements coexist with clowning...At times Gold’s clever set pieces overwhelm Shakespeare’s words. But the pictures he creates are unforgettable...None of the experimental excesses can take away from the power of Isaac’s portrayal." Full Review

Edge New York

"Director Sam Gold is offering up a very intimate take on the tragedy...Isaac's Hamlet is more relatable and contemporary; he seems like someone you could have known at college or who works in the office down the hall...Together this excellent cast, under Gold's direction, takes Shakespeare's grand tragedy and makes it more casual, more personal, and still powerful as ever." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"If it isn’t exactly my kind of 'Hamlet,' it’s still exciting in its own up-close-and-personal way...Isaac's interpretation is singularly intelligent—every line reading is fresh and spontaneous—and to see and hear him in the close quarters of the Anspacher Theater is to be caught up anew in the burning immediacy of the moment...Mr. Gold’s staging, a few too-clever touches notwithstanding, serves the text rather than obscuring it...All in all, his 'Hamlet' is much more than satisfying." Full Review


"This is a sometimes confusing, endlessly interesting staging that is full of color and scent...The vivid and fully inhabited performances—especially from Isaac—make for a stellar distraction from the challenging matters of staging...Viewed as a vehicle for memorable performances, this is an awesome 'Hamlet'—just note, it’s not a remotely 'classic' one." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Gold is exorcising demons of cliché and supposition from Shakespeare’s most frequently staged tragedy...The physical environment suggests a rehearsal space. That approach...discourages the audience from engaging with the performance on a level that’s more emotional than intellectual...The important news is that none of Gold’s cheeky innovations get in the way of his fine actors performing this familiar yet ever-challenging Shakespearean text with urgency, clarity, and insight." Full Review

The Washington Post

“'Hamlet' benefits from the wide berth Gold gives his well-spoken actors to explore the play’s rawest emotions and most confounding contradictions, however outrageous the exploration may become...Though the line here between polished work and mere scene work feels as if it’s being crossed and recrossed, the choices illuminate enough corners of the tragedy to make this an engagingly provocative stop on your own lifelong 'Hamlet' journey." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"An audacious, highly stylized production that is technically faithful to the text, but flaunts tradition in almost every other respect...If any version can ever be called a definitive 'Hamlet,' this one isn’t really in the running; Gold’s staging is too cheeky, and his tone careens too wildly between farce and tragedy...But there’s a method to his madness, too, and enough eternal magic in the material to make four hours feel fully, smartly spent." Full Review

New York Theater

"Sam Gold aims to stir things up with this 'Hamlet,' and he’s using his playbook from past productions to do so...This is a production that values cleverness over emotional engagement. Yet, for all this fiddling around, and despite too many moments of director-engendered incoherence, Gold’s 'Hamlet' ultimately worked for me...Gold’s radical interpretation of the play did not for me undermine the power and clarity of Isaac’s Hamlet." Full Review


"Gold does indeed dish up plenty of decidedly newfangled ideas—some intriguing, others, far less so...The director's penchant for replacing all the trappings of a more fully furnished stage has its lowlights and highlights...Naturally, even the best and most interesting director's interpretation is only as good as the actors presenting them. Fortunately, this cast does very well indeed, even with Gold's more pretentious and controversial ideas." Full Review

AM New York

"This production of Shakespeare’s timeless revenge tragedy is stripped down and intimate...Isaac makes for a handsome and lyrical Hamlet...The production is almost always interesting, but it lacks a coherent vision and becomes too consumed by experimental tactics. Perhaps Gold and Isaac can continue developing it and bring it back in a year or so." Full Review


"While there are some extremely clever touches on Gold's part for those well-versed in the play, the uninitiated may have no idea what's going on...But for those who know the text, these are ingenious, outside-the-box choices that do a thought-provoking job of deepening the material even further...As for Isaac himself, he's exactly what we could want out of a Hamlet...It's worth the character confusion, the odd comedic choices, and all four hours, just to watch Isaac's expert performance." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"There are some good creative moments…On the other hand Gold indulges in some utterly gross approaches that severely undercut the play…Isaac's Hamlet is a very energetic, even aggressive one. If you accept that concept and tone, Isaac does brilliantly and creates an especially dynamic Hamlet. However, that approach strips away the idea of a melancholy Dane…Isaac’s performance is a major one to see this season." Full Review

The Wrap

"An intriguing, if not always riveting, four hours. The evening unfolds in fits and starts, and the best way to approach this 'Hamlet' is to sit back and enjoy the outrageousness. When Gold’s imagination fails him during most of the Bard’s soliloquies, you can listen to the poetry and simply wait for the director’s invention to return. It does, and gathers force in the second half." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Oscar Isaac is a sensational Hamlet...That his performance registers so effectively is an additional credit to Isaac, given how many obstacles director Sam Gold throws in his way in a gimmicky modern-dress production that often seems more WTF-perverse than audacious...I spent much of the first two acts admiring the actors but scratching my head about the director's intentions." Full Review

Great acting, Intense, Must see, Riveting, Masterful

See it if You're looking for an amazing work performed to perfection.

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare???

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Must see

See it if You want a whole new take on Hamlet by an astounding, masterful cast. Oscar!!!! Wow!!!!

Don't see it if See it. It's only around a few more days...

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful

See it if You're a Hamlet fan. This production was stunning!

Don't see it if It bothers you when a director tries new interpretations. I think Sam Gold strays from the beaten path in the most beautiful of ways. Bravo!

Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if The cast for this production is phenomenal. Oscar is a great Hamlet. Sam Gold's minimalistic staging is brilliant.

Don't see it if you aren't familiar with the play. Most of the cast play multiple roles and there will be confusion if you don't know the story already.

Also This production was one of the best pieces of theatre I have seen so f... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Must see, Great staging

See it if An intimate, ingeniously staged, fearlessly acted version of probably the finest play ever written. Oscar Isaac + Sam Gold are a dream team.

Don't see it if It's very sold out so. That would be a reason. No period costumes, no epic set. Don't expect Elizabethan grandeur. It's Hamlet in a hoodie.

Great acting, Masterful, Riveting, Epic, Intense

See it if you want to see a brilliantly directed and acted production of one of the all-time great plays. Ingenious, exhausting and so satisfying.

Don't see it if you can't sit through 3.5-4 hours. Or can't get tickets (it's very sold out).

Also I've seen/read/studied Hamlet so many times and this production blew m... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you want to see powerful acting in an amazing adaptation of Shakespeare. Sam Gold has crafted one of the greatest renditions I've seen.

Don't see it if you want classic Hamlet without modern styling or creative liberties, or you can't sit through ~4 hours of Shakespeare.

Great staging, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Great writing, Ambitious

See it if you enjoy the 'Sam Gold' treatment to classic revivals, especially this adventurous take on Shakespeare's most famous work led by Issac.

Don't see it if you do not enjoy Sam Gold's work, or need more grandeur in your epic classics.

Entertaining, Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Relevant

See it if You love Shakespeare and love seeing new takes on the material.

Don't see it if You hate Shakespeare

Clever, Masterful, Quirky, Epic, Great staging

See it if you enjoy smart, contemporary yet faithful interpretations of Shkspr. Cast is superb. A lot of surprisingly funny moments. 4hrs goes by fast

Don't see it if you aren't into Shkpr plays at all. It's a long piece, so be prepared for that. Don't expect big set changes or elaborate costumes.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Riveting, Refreshing, Great acting

See it if You love Hamlet, Shakespeare, The Public Theatre, expanded interpretations of classic work, and/or Oscar Isaacs, who is wonderful in this.

Don't see it if You can't possibly endure 3 hours and 50 minutes of Shakespeare, you don't find Hamlet a powerful play, or you don't like modern adaptations

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Intelligent

See it if you are open to contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare. Oscar Isaac is outstanding, as are the rest of the cast.

Don't see it if You are a Shakespeare traditionalist who likes their Bard unabridged and performed by a cast of thousands in elaborate settings.

Exquisite, Absorbing, Ambitious

See it if you like Shakespeare, intimate family dramas, and a fresh take on a classic play.

Don't see it if you cannot handle a four hour and twenty five minute play (even with two intermissions)

Absorbing, Exquisite, Edgy, Great acting, Dizzying

See it if You want to see the most unique production of HAMLET. Oscar Issac is incredible.

Don't see it if You don't like minimalist, stripped-down productions of classic works.

Edgy, Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Masterful

See it if A must-see; it will take you over.

Don't see it if The four-hour run-time is not for the faint of heart.

Ambitious, Great acting, Edgy, Profound, Intelligent

See it if You like to see Shakespeare in a non-classical production. Oacar Isaac and Keegan-Michael Key add a new perspective to Hamlet.

Don't see it if You like your Shakespeare exactly as written, stage notes included.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Edgy, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if You are open to new interpretations of Shakespeare.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with interactive shows with house lights up during performance.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if you love a modern take on a classic and appreciate blind casting. This does a beautiful job with both.

Don't see it if you're a traditionalist. This is presented a bit more modern than you may care for.

Ambitious, Clever, Entertaining, Profound, Riveting

See it if Inventive and impressive, crackerjack cast start with a "lets put on a play" attitude and unleashes a touching funny and powerful production

Don't see it if with all the role switching its not the ideal first HAMLET to experience; removal of typical 3 hour time limit makes for a lengthy outing

Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you want to see an interesting approach to a classic play and Oscar Isaac be amazing. Also, if you enjoy laughing during "tragedies".

Don't see it if you prefer your Shakespeare to always be "standard" or do not like Shakespeare plays to begin with. Also if you prefer shows with big sets.

Funny, Refreshing, Intense, Resonant, Classic

See it if you enjoy being reminded why we keep doing Shakespeare, and you want to see a group of distinctive actors freed to make exciting choices.

Don't see it if you have very specific ideas about how Shakespeare should be done, or you think anything weird or outside-the-box is a "gimmick."

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Must see, Profound

See it if you love the play Hamlet and want to see it done beautifully with great actors. This was truly masterful.

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare or very long plays

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Must see, Absorbing

See it if you'd like a fresh, intense and intimate staging of one of the greatest English plays.

Don't see it if you think the Fortinbras scenes are the key to the play.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if You could never see enough productions of Hamlet. See it for Isaac's outstanding performance in intimate setting.

Don't see it if You can only abide classic Elizabethan productions of Shakespeare.

Absorbing, Clever, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You are open to a fresh, modernized take on the classic

Don't see it if You are a purist - or think you will struggle with a production of Hamlet delivered with a healthy dose of humor

Cast & Creatives (16)