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  Bernhardt/Hamlet Reviews
Bernhardt/Hamlet
Goodman Theatre

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Somewhat Recommended

"...Rebeck is a fabulously smart, entertaining and incisive writer and all of that is fully worthy of your attention, especially when directed in such a lively fashion and with funny, live-wire actors like Travis Turner and Gregory Linington in featured roles. But the show does not stay there - instead it reaches for a connection with Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac." By Act 2, the play gets overtaken by the complex and fraught romance between Sarah and the married Rostand (John Tufts), and you're not so much watching "Bernhardt/Hamlet" as "Bernhardt/Cyrano.""
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Chris Jones



Daily Herald- Somewhat Recommended

"...Theresa Rebeck's historically inspired 2018 Broadway drama receives a respectable and distinguished production by director Donna Feore for its Chicago premiere at the Goodman Theatre. But the play ultimately comes off as stilted."
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Scott C. Morgan



Chicago Reader- Recommended

"...Rebeck's play, at least in this production, tends to work better taken in parts, but those good parts are pretty glorious. A scene between McMahon's Hamlet and Larry Yando's Ghost is as transcendent as the brilliant moment in the TV series Slings & Arrows where a director dissects the psychology of Ophelia. At nearly three hours, Rebeck takes a little too long to make her points, but it's overall a delightful and thought-provoking theatrical exercise."
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Kerry Reid



Windy City Times- Recommended

"...It's still easy to recommend this play because, no matter what its focus, it is an absorbing, captivating piece of theatre. Director Feore's love for the material shines through every decision she makes, and even her minor characters are thoughtfully rounded. Narelle Sissons' flexible backstage setting allows for quick and often lovely scene changes, and Dana Osborne's costumes evoke the era beautifully. There are also some absolutely lovely moments in Robert Wierzel's lighting, and Joanna Lynne Staub's sound design and original music are nothing short of perfection. Despite the issues I have with the second act, this is one impressive play both in front of and behind the scenes. I wish, though, that it had remained more true to its focus."
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Karen Topham



Chicago On the Aisle- Somewhat Recommended

"...Yes, Bernhardt went with a prose adaptation. But surely she based that choice on more nuanced reasoning than the playwright offers here. McMahon's sublime actress sounds downright sophomoric in her rejection of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter as just so much duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH. And indeed, that is not how she speaks the original lines. She may not bring gripping subtlety to the soliloquies, but neither does she reduce them to idiotic incantation. So when she hammers at overstressed accents in making her case to the veteran Coquelin, who gently pushes back, her hyperbole simply doesn't wash. It's just sort of silly."
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Lawrence B. Johnson



Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...Well, with “Bernhardt” and “Hamlet” sharing the marquee, Goodman Theatre’s season-opener must be larger than life if not literature. Sprawling and stuffed at 150 minutes, Theresa Rebeck’s multi-focused 2018 drama Bernhardt/Hamlet takes a quizzical look at a bizarre chapter of theater lore. We’re witness to the sensation-seeking choice of legendary leading lady Sarah Bernhardt to transform (or trivialize) the toughest role on the boards into a “trouser” role."
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Lawrence Bommer



Around The Town Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Ms Bernhardt was known as a "Prima Dona" , a "Diva" and did in fact open her own theater where she did in fact bring her own "Hamlet" to the stage. Nonetheless, she was a marvelous talent that the audiences loved. This story is one that will make you smile for sure, laugh out loud in other areas and even open your eyes to some basic insights into how our world differed back in time. Or did it? This is a funny, well written play that is directed to perfection. I would place on my MUST SEE list, for sure!"
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Alan Bresloff



NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Theresa Rebeck’s 2018 play presents a timely (and frustrating) dilemma that Bernhardt encountered back in 1899. Who are the gatekeepers of our classics and why do we allow them to draw a definitive line that may not be crossed? More than a hundred years later, why are we still so stuck in the mindset that we cannot disseminate what “we know” of Shakespeare’s work or that of his contemporaries?"
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Amanda Finn



Chicago Theatre Review- Recommended

"...The casting of a female in a male role, and vice versa, or having a trans actor playing either gender, is more easily accepted now by contemporary audiences. The question still surfaces as to whether an actress should try to appear more masculine in a male role or play the character with a female bent. Perhaps the best choice is to simply play the role as genderless. But was Sarah Bernhardt’s goal in playing Hamlet, as debated in Theresa Rebeck’s comic drama, an artistic challenge or a way to stroke her ego? Either way, Sarah Bernhardt’s decision to play Hamlet validated the actress as a bonafide star."
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Colin Douglas



Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Recommended

"...When “Bernhard/Hamlet” is good, it is very good. The dialogue is witty, the explorations of “Hamlet” are full of challenging insights, and several of the character confrontations crackle with tension. The play is worth seeing if only for the fresh and stimulating examination of the Bard in general and his greatest work in particular. Larry Yando enhances the audience’s pleasure with every line he speaks, but it has always been thus with this brilliant actor on local stages. On the other hand, the narrative spends too much time on the Rostand-Sarah love affair, and needs to find a legitimate place for the Alphonse Mucha figure. McMahon is certainly a creditable Bernhardt but the role demands a star turn. All in all, a good show but not a palpable hit."
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Dan Zefg



Buzznews.net- Highly Recommended

"...Larry Yando, in the role of Constant Coquelin, is that world-weary trouper who has played Hamlet four times, but has now aged into the roles of Polonius and Hamlet's father - and imparts acting advice to the less experienced players. When he turns on the power, it is electrifying. The cast is so good, the production values so high, and the play so entertaining there is only one thing to say: go see it."
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Bill Esler



The Fourth Walsh- Somewhat Recommended

"...BERNHARDT/HAMLET didn’t have the unabashed Divine Sarah I anticipated. Although the backstory behind Bernhardt’s “Hamlet” and Rostand’s “Cyrano” intrigues, this show doesn’t captivate. The theatrical and relational barriers to get the shows made resolve without any real drama or comedy."
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Katy Walsh



Third Coast Review- Recommended

"...The backstage dramedy, which premiered on Broadway last year, is now on view at the Goodman Theatre, directed by Donna Feore, the notable Canadian who has directed for years at the Stratford Festival. Terri McMahon, a veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, makes her Goodman debut as Bernhardt and approaches the performance standard set by Janet McTeer on Broadway."
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Nancy Bishop



The Hawk Chicago- Recommended

"...Imperfect though it may be, Bernhardt/Hamlet's strengths far overshadow its flaws. Rebeck's sharp, clever dialogue and McMahon's tremendous performance make it well-worth seeing, but the play's greatest asset is its relevance. Leaving my seat, I couldn't help but return to the question of how theatre, how society, has changed since Bernhardt's bold move. She attempted to pave a new path for women, but was she successful? How far have we really come since Bernhardt "wore the pants?" "
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Chicago Theater and Arts- Recommended

"...In “Bernhardt/Hamlet” now playing at Goodman Theatre, prolific playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Theresa Rebeck has pulled back the curtain on a real happening, populated by real people. She colors it with witty, fictionalized dialogue in the first act."
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Jodie Jacobs



TotalTheater- Highly Recommended

"...Rebeck's biodrama blends history with modern issues regarding gender, social prejudices, artistic theory, the absence of material for mature actresses, the folly of mixing business and personal relationships—the Pygmalion dynamic can travel both ways, you know—and many other topics. The more than two hours needed to discuss these matters in full are kept from growing cumbersome by Donna Feore's brisk direction and a scrumptious stage environment replete with sensual texture (with a soupcon of sassy sim-sex, courtesy of Intimacy designer Gaby Labotka)."
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Mary Shen Barnidge