Regarding the new production of Hamlet at the Barbican in London, Ben Brantley of the New York Times was surprisingly dismissive of the supporting cast, though he did allow that “Mr. Hinds’s soft-talking, Godfather-like Claudius is at least a defined character.” Let’s take a closer look to see which scene he has in mind, delving into the murky world of deceit, murder and unnatural acts that belongs to… THE STEPFATHER!*
A family wedding is being celebrated, but only Johnny Benedetto, stepson to Don Claudione, is downcast. Unlike the other revelers, he wears black and keeps himself apart. The Stepfather asks him what has him so gloomy.
Johnny Benedetto: A month ago a producer in London, England bought the rights to this story, a best seller. The main character is a guy just like me. He’s called Hamlet. I wouldn’t even have to act, just be myself, with all my forms, moods, shapes of grief… but they won’t give me the role. Oh, Stepfather, I don’t know what to do, I’m having suicidal thoughts…
[Don Claudione rises from his chair and gives Benedetto a savage shake.]
Don Claudione: You can ACT LIKE A MAN! [Gives him a quick slap.] What’s the matter with you? Is this how you turn out, a Wittenberg finocchio that cries like a woman? “To be or not to be?” What is this nonsense? Ridiculous! You should spend more time with your family. Your mother doesn’t want you to go back to Wittenberg…
Johnny Benedetto: I shall in all my best obey her.
Don Claudione: Good. Because a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man. Come here [pats his cheek] You look terrible. I want you to stay here, rest well, and a month from now this big shot in London’s gonna give you what you want. I’ll send you there with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Reliable men.
Johnny Benedetto: Too late. They start rehearsing in a week.
Don Claudione: [pats him on the back] I’m gonna make them an offer they can’t refuse.
*Thanks to the LSH for the logo!