‘Izzard Hamlet New York’ Review: A Solo Show That’s More Noble Than Wise

To laugh, or not to laugh? That is the question.

Or at least one you may consider early in Eddie Izzard’s “Hamlet,” in which the comic portrays all the roles herself.

Something is certainly a little silly about dramatizing Hamlet fighting with his mother by having a left hand wrestle with the arm of the right, evoking Peter Sellers’s scientist who struggles to restrain himself from raising his arm in Nazi salute in “Dr. Strangelove.” And solo sword fights have possibilities that a brilliant comedian like Izzard might exploit.

Yet, as Izzard darts around the stage, from role to role, hopscotching in and out of the audience declaiming speeches, what becomes clear is this frenetic staging is earnest, surprisingly traditional and deadly serious. A wildly witty ad-libber, Izzard can make two-hour monologues feel like a stream-of-conscious eruption. A play straitjackets this gift. Except for a few flourishes, this staging, directed by Selina Cadell, is short of ideas. (Imagine sock puppets without the socks and you get an idea of her Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.)

Inside a modern, minimalist set (designed by Tom Piper) with no props, Izzard, who mounted a solo theatrical adaptation of “Great Expectations” last year, sometimes represents changing characters by spinning, other times by just moving a few feet. If there is method here, I did not detect it. If you don’t know “Hamlet,” there is no chance you are going to follow the play within a play. If you do, you might wonder why Izzard doesn’t spend more time playing the characters watching, not talking.

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