New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

Hamlet in Bed

From 27 critic and 15 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Indulgent, Great acting

About the show

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater presents a twisty and darkly comic story about mothers and sons: a neurotic actor tracks down a woman who may be his real mother. More…

Michael is a neurotic actor and adoptee obsessed with two things - finding his real mother, and playing the famous Gloomy Dane. His twin fixations collide when he tracks down Anna, a reclusive former actress-turned-barfly. Gripped by the notion that she might be his actual birth-mother, he first stalks her from a distance, then lures her into a noirish production of Hamlet playing the role of the queen, his mother. 'Hamlet in Bed' is a darkly comic and poignant story about mothers and sons, about what it means to live a life in the theatre, both a generation ago and now, and about families - the ones we’re born into, and the ones we find along the way.

1h 30m | Already closed | Rattlestick Theatre (West Village)

Theatre Reviews Limited

"The conceit is brilliant and the execution by the actors under Lisa Peterson’s direction is equally brilliant and equally engaging. Both actors move – glide actually – in and out of narration, monologues, and engaging scenes...This is a complicated and deeply rich script that lingers with the audience long after the curtain call." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Your average theatergoer rarely has the occasion for an in-depth study of a single scene. But doing so provides a fascinating opportunity to understand both the play and certain characters in great detail. Michael Laurence’s terrific new two-hander does just that...Laurence, O’Toole and director Lisa Peterson pull the whole thing off beautifully." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Laurence gets a startling amount of mileage out of this soapy premise thanks to the show's off-kilter style, Lisa Peterson's modulated direction, transformative lighting and, indispensably, the electrifying Annette O’Toole. Though the play is ostensibly Michael's story, 'Hamlet in Bed' emerges as Anna's play." Full Review

Center on the Aisle

"Though Mr. Laurence and Ms. O’Toole have palpable amounts of chemistry, it is their lone monologues that electrify. With the stylistic and rich direction of Lisa Peterson, these monologues become mood pieces that imbue us with stylistic visuals that are a magnifying glass into these lone souls...A piece as intricate and stylized as this should not be missed." Full Review


"Under Lisa Peterson's direction, both Laurence and O'Toole deliver extremely fascinating performances that are the polar opposite of each other...Peterson's creative team complements the unnerving tone established early on...The full scenes themselves are much stronger overall, and it's lovely to watch Laurence and O'Toole sink their teeth into the compelling characters he has created." Full Review

Motherhood Later

"Intense, thought-provoking, at times humorous, 90 minute (no intermission) play, making it’s world premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre...If you haven’t seen or read 'Hamlet' in some time, 'Hamlet in Bed' will tickle your Shakespearean fancy and renew or instill some curiosity. No 'Get thee to a nunnery' is spoken here…I hope that O’Toole will get there to more stage opportunities." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"...improbable but often engrossing, sometimes funny, well-performed, but highly implausible metatheatrical piece about a modern-day Hamlet and his overpowering Oedipal urges...Director Lisa Peterson squeezes mostly lifelike performances from O’Toole and Laurence...'Hamlet in Bed' isn’t very convincing, but it succeeds in keeping you awake during its 90 intermissionless minutes." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"I found this play interesting, informative, and thought-provoking as it shed a fresh look on a subject that takes down a lot of people, who normally end up committing suicide. The need to connect because you have been abandoned is a torment that is made palpable in this production." Full Review

American Theater Web

"It’s an terrifically rich scenario, and under Lisa Peterson’s astute direction, the show unfolds like a highly theatrical noir...The play itself proves to be not as thoroughly engaging...By the play’s end though, Laurence’s writing recovers, and he leaves the characters and theatergoers with a marvelous hanging question mark about who these people are." Full Review

The New York Times

"In its anatomizing of the psychodynamics of the rehearsal room, the play bears a resemblance to David Ives’s 'Venus in Fur.' It’s not, unfortunately, quite as entertaining. It is, however, suspenseful enough to sustain our interest...Both actors give strong performances." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Despite its provocative if not exactly credible premise, the play doesn't succeed in making its disparate themes coalesce. Its strangeness is only emphasized by the varying theatrical styles employed...Laurence delivers a performance intense enough...But it's O'Toole, still sizzlingly sexy at 62, who's the standout here." Full Review


"Playwright Michael Laurence portrays an actor named Michael in 'Hamlet in Bed,' in his visceral and unpredictable if not actually believable, two-character hallucinatory drama...He stalks a broken former actress, formidably played by Annette O'Toole with equal parts toughness, desperation and feline litheness." Full Review


"Michael has a theory that Shakespeare wrote the scene where Hamlet and Gertrude argue about her worth as a mother first. 'Hamlet in Bed' takes that scene as a point of departure and expands it, reminding us how inexhaustible the source material is, even as it offers up two very good actors in a minimalist production with, I suspect, relatively narrow appeal." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Director Lisa Peterson, along with scene designer Rachel Hauck and props master Zachary Serafin, create an effective noir atmosphere. The ending, which is really ambiguous, may leave audiences dissatisfied, and the characters aren’t given the opportunity to demonstrate much growth...Both actors hold the stage and are fun to watch as the two tussle." Full Review

Front Row Center

"The acting by both Michael Laurence and Annette O’Toole is impressive. Multimedia is used to minimal but good effect, but the background music, designed to guide our emotions and keep our attention, seems too present and at points it feels as if there is too much language here. We want to understand and sympathize, but we also want to go back and re-read that speech we just heard, which would be possible if this were a novel." Full Review


"Director Lisa Peterson has crafted a wonderfully bleak and tense production from Laurence's improbable psychological drama. The 90-minute two-hander is packed with some striking visuals and terrific acting, but the text itself fails to generate enough heat to match its attention-grabbing premise...By the time Michael quips to the audience that his misuse of a word was a 'Freudian slip, like this whole play,' you may be ready to agree with him." Full Review


"Once we are given the facts, the ending becomes very predictable though the actors are very intense throughout...'Hamlet in Bed' is an acting tour de force for its cast of two and will probably interest theater people more than the usual run of theatergoers. It is cast in the new form of theater that is more storytelling than dramatization. Michael Lawrence adds another neurotic, obsessive portrayal to his résumé." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"'Hamlet in Bed' is clever and creepy and Laurence makes a charismatic nutjob. (O’Toole is also strong as the could-be mother.) The portions of narration written in verse are surprisingly solid...But the fascination of the cross-references pretty quickly pales, perhaps especially in Lisa Peterson’s stylishly noir production, leaving you with nothing but the obsession to hang on to. That’s insufficient...Even at only 90 minutes I began to feel I was trapped in someone’s scream-therapy session." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"It’s frustrating to encounter what could be potent drama when it’s underdramatized. I like the idea of 'Hamlet in Bed,' but I wonder if it might benefit from another draft. Turn it from a two-hander into a trio, maybe, putting Mary onstage. Or fold in Phillip, Anna’s beloved Hamlet, make it a foursome, and flash back more. Show more of the story, tell less. And lose that damn mic." Full Review

Village Voice

"They bring lively energy to these characters, but they can't quite make the plot feel like more than an inside joke for Shakespeare lovers. The mother-son dynamic — angsty, vaguely incestuous — gets indulgent, and it's hard to fight the nagging sense that another play captured this relationship better. Oh, right: That would be 'Hamlet.'" Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"There's a powerful, if contrived, idea at the center of 'Hamlet in Bed,' but, until it finally explodes in a blistering dramatic confrontation, it resides too firmly in the separate echo chambers of its protagonists' miseries. Anna and Michael are a pair of case studies, their interest more clinical than compelling. As Gertrude herself notes in Hamlet, what is wanted is more matter, less art." Full Review


"The gifted Michael Lawrence and Annette O'Toole under the direction of Lisa Peterson make this close to preposterous conceit worth exploring simply for its dramatic potential...A mixture of revelatory monologues and confrontational scenes bring an immediate relevance to the famous 'closet scene' to which Michael's interpretation presumably brings new insights. This is what gives this play its Hamlet Complex motivation and theme but makes for a curious and cagey show-piece." Full Review

New York Theater

"Too much of 'Hamlet in Bed' feels implausible and tiresomely hip. Directed by Lisa Peterson, the play is presented on a dark, nearly bare stage, the actors dressed in black. The initial tone is infused with self-serious film-noir, which morphs into avant-garde collage and from there into primal scream therapy." Full Review

New York Daily News

"In the end, the play’s the thing. And despite some poetic passages, this one feels like a self-indulgent acting exercise...Lisa Peterson’s staging is aptly shadowy. Laurence does morose and angst like nobody’s business. O’Toole is gritty and touching. Despite that, 'Hamlet' grows wearying. Get thee to a Sleepy’s." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"Mr. Laurence’s play has some high aspirations, but in fact offers little more than its premise, which feels progressively more contrived...'Hamlet in Bed' is a one-line gag that lasts 90 minutes, the script padded with uninteresting exposition made up of generic elements...the performances, while acceptable, do not stir up much emotion." Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Great writing, Great acting

See it if you love to see new "re-tellings" of Shakespeare classics and enjoy great acting and absorbing writing.

Don't see it if you are the theatre-goer who procrastinates and then is sorry to have missed an engaging show.

Edgy, Great writing, Intelligent, Original, Clever

See it if love Hamlet in any form and are intrigued by the many interpretations. If you are willing to extend your thinking about Hamlet. Fresh look.

Don't see it if a traditionalist in regards to Shakespeare, if you want only the sacred text.

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Raunchy

See it if You enjoy solid acting and uncomfortable story-line situations.

Don't see it if You are looking for traditional theatre. This is odd, and special.

Ambitious, Clever, Great writing, Intelligent, Original

See it if Like intelligent smart plays

Don't see it if Dislike the above

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Original, Quirky

See it if you want to see some refreshing experimental theatre with a small cast and a phenomenal male lead. Plus, the production quality is amazing.

Don't see it if you want something light. The show is dark and often heavy. The female lead is a little weak and has been done before--I blame the script.

Ambitious, Edgy, Unmemorable, Indulgent, Slow

See it if you are fascinated by actors. This psychological drama about Hamlet and Gertrude is ambitious, but doesn't fully deliver.

Don't see it if you get restless. I found myself nodding off.

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Indulgent

See it if you want to see a modern take on Hamlet that illuminates the text. Two-hander with great leads. A vision of a fictional disreputable NYC.

Don't see it if you can't go along with a lot of self-indulgence from the actor-playwright. I found it amusing. Others might find it pretentious.

Ambitious, Great acting, Indulgent, Quirky, Overlong

See it if you are a fan of either actor.

Don't see it if you easily tire of monologues.

Confusing, Disappointing, Great staging, Insipid, Original

See it if you're a Hamlet fan and want to see a more modern take. Two actors; male outshone the woman. If LONG monologues and shouting are your thing.

Don't see it if the smell of those herbal cigarette things bothers you (it's intense). if you don't want experimental theater. not a must-see at all.

Quirky, Indulgent, Slow, Disappointing, Ambitious

See it if You are interested either in the feisty and focussed actress Annette O'Toole or in the Hamlet closet scene as the story's springboard

Don't see it if You expect the actor-author to newly illuminate anything particularly inspiring about Hamlet, character or play.

Absorbing, Great writing, Resonant, Intelligent

See it if you know the text of Hamlet reasonably well. This play brilliantly transposes two key acts of Hamlet into a parallel plot set NOW.

Don't see it if you don't know or like Hamlet.OR you don't like metatheatre (theatre about theatre).

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Great writing

See it if You like witty lines built off of old phrasings.

Don't see it if Not a fan of some cliches.

Ambitious, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You like great performances

Don't see it if Like

During previews
Indulgent, Slow, Unengaging, Ambitious, Disappointing

See it if you're a fan of Michael Laurence.

Don't see it if you're not a fan of Michael Laurence.

During previews
Cliched, Disappointing, Banal, Indulgent, Insipid

See it if You love the actors.

Don't see it if You like watching engaging theater.

Cast & Creatives (10)