November 05, 1990 12:00 PM

PBS (Fri., Nov. 2, 9 P.M. ET)


Everybody wants to get into the act. The same night that Olivier’s definitive version of Hamlet airs on cable’s Bravo channel (11 P.M. ET) and scant months before Mel Gibson assays the great Dane on movie screens, Great Performances presents Kevin Kline as Gertrude’s hung-up son.

This adaptation of the New York Shakespeare Festival production features a generally fine cast, including Dana Ivey as Mom, Brian Murray as Claudius, Diane Venora as Ophelia and Peter Francis James as Horatio. Though better in dialogue than in the famous soliloquies. Kline primes the play most passionately with his Prince. Viewers who are familiar only with his film work will be pleasantly surprised at what a good classical actor Kline is.

The contemporary costuming (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Botany 500 suits?) and stark, stagey sets, are off-putting but, oh, that glorious Bardic language. By the way, recent studies indicate conclusively that ’tis far nobler to take arms against a sea of troubles than it is to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

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