April 26, 2017

The actors’ transformation happens gradually, in front of us, before the lights go down. As the audience settles in at the Theater at St. Clement’s, the performers pluck items of rich clothing from the bounty laid out onstage — a laced corset here, a gilt-edged ruff there — and piece by piece become inhabitants of Hamlet’s world, not ours. “Hamlet. A Version” is a riff on Shakespeare with no tiresome sentinels on the battlements, spying the ghost of the recently dead king. A politically minded caper by the Russian writer and dissident Boris Akunin, known for his detective novels, it starts with a dissolute Hamlet exercising a little droit du seigneur, groping an alarmed Ophelia in plain sight of her father and brother. At two acts and 100 minutes, there is little plumbing of Hamlet’s psyche in this exceedingly handsome, surface-skimming production by Irina Gachechiladze. “To be or not to be, who cares?” the Prince of Denmark (Matt Weiss) says, or said on Monday night, anyway; the line is not in Mr. Akunin’s script. In either case, this is a play about intrigue: amid palace dysfunction, a corpse-strewn power grab.