Hunter Astonishes In “The Emperor”

Kathryn Hunter is a unique performer, and it is always a pleasure to see her in person. This month, she is appearing in Brooklyn, under the auspices of Theatre for a New Audience, at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, in “The Emperor.” It’s an adaptation, by Colin Teevan, of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s account of the court of Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie, up to his fall from power in 1974. Hunter plays all of Selassie’s courtiers, from his chauffeur to his top Information advisor. Hunter’s voice is a thing of wonder: resonant but not fussy. She has worked out very precise physical details to conjure up each personality, but they never feel over-contrived. Equally important to the impact of the production is Temesgen Zeleke, an Ethiopian musician who accompanies Hunter on the Ethiopian krar lyre and who is occasionally a character in the larger drama. “The Emperor,” which runs 70 minutes, is highly recommended.

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