Most theater is experimental.
Traditions there may be — but when you put on a play, you put it on your way, in your house, with your people. Almost always, there will be novelties, tweaks, improvisations.
At McCarter Theatre Center, the theater group known as Bedlam is attempting a fascinating experiment. They are now in residence at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, where, with the delighted blessings of artistic director Emily Mann, this four-person troupe is performing two mammoth, monumental plays – Hamlet, by William Shakespeare; and Saint Joan, by George Bernard Shaw – in repertory, alternating between Shakespeare and Shaw, night to night.
These sprawling, profound, ambiguous works are famous for wringing out huge companies, no matter their cavernous theaters and sumptuous costumes. They’ve beaten the best. Can four people – Tom O’Keefe, Edmund Lewis, Eric Tucker, and Andrus Nichols – possibly do them justice?
They do it generally in street clothes, changing character with lightning inflections of voice and posture – and sometimes passing a hat from head to head. Next week, we will run a joint review by Toby Zinman, who saw the Hamlet recently, and me, after I see Saint Joan this coming weekend. The plays run through Feb. 12.
In the meantime, here is a tantalizing trailer from McCarter: