Kevin Kline may have lampooned the idea in the movie Soapdish, but two of the world's great theatrical innovators actually staged one-man versions of Hamlet last year. Texas-born Theater of Images guru Robert Wilson premiered his Hamlet at Houston's Alley Theatre in May, while Quebec's Robert Lepage (star attraction of Chicago's last International Theatre Festival with his hypnotizing Needles and Opium) opened his Elsinore at Montreal's Monument National in November. But Lepage, unlike Wilson, is headed our way. His appearance in Chicago next weekend will be his only U.S. stop with the production before he heads off to Germany and Japan. Elsinore--the title is taken from the name of the Danish castle where Shakespeare's Hamlet lives--is Lepage's third solo work and the first based upon a fictional character (Vinci was about Leonardo da Vinci, and Needles and Opium explored the obsessions of Jean Cocteau and Miles Davis). Like its predecessors, Elsinore is a showcase for Lepage's sophisticated technical wizardry: he appeared to dive into a video screen in Needles and Opium. But his simple stagecraft outshines even the most spectacular effects. To portray Hamlet confronting the king, for instance, Lepage sits at a table across from a crown and jeweled scepter. To transform himself into the king, he simply spins the tabletop so that the crown sits before him. Like Chicago's equally ingenious Mary Zimmerman, Lepage finds magic in the merely actual. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 722-5463 or 663-1628. Opens Thursday, February 15, 7:30 PM. Through February 18: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday 3 PM. $24-$34. --Justin Hayford
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Richard-Max Tremblay.