Teachout, who usually shows less tolerance for experimental work than Brantley, surprised me with his approval of lauded New York director Sam Gold's modern dress production of Shakespeare's most famous and most challenging play.
Known for giving attention to theater outside of New York City and skewering audience favorites like Bette Midler's "Hello Dolly," Teachout was among those blasting Gold's gimmicks with the recently closed Broadway revival of "The Glass Menagerie."
But Gold's updates of Shakespeare, including the use of syringes instead of swords and Isaac's Hamlet wearing a hoodie, didn't discomfit Teachout. The critic, biographer and playwright raved about Issaac's quiet performance, deeming it perfect for the Public's intimate Anspacher Theater on Lafayette Street. He also was taken by Gayle Rankin's Opehlia, and comic star Keegan-Michael Key's Horatio.
Another innovation of the show is Isaac prancing around in briefs, likely worth the ticket price for some in the audience.
While Isaac's a rising movie star, he has a strong theater background. He starred in the Public's "Romeo and Juliet" several years ago, and received classical training, as detailed last Sunday in a Times profile, one of the best cultural pieces the newspaper has done in a while.
Brantley's fulsome praise was less surprising. He usually likes Gold's work, and often follows popular taste in his reviews.
Reading the glowing reviews here in theater-deprived Atlanta, I wished that the Public Theater would show "Hamlet" on movie screens across the country, as was done with the British production of "Hamlet" starring Benedict Cumberbatch a few years ago. The Metropolitan Opera's film screen productions have been box-office hits, but no American theater company to my knowledge has set up a similar operation.