I Saw Hamilton (Finally)
He’d like it.
In two acts we are treated to the span of Alexander Hamilton’s heroic life replete with ambition, jealousy, courage, infidelity and love.
Hamilton was mixed-race, illegitimate and born to a mother married at the time to another. He escapes his West Indies “prison” and the stage is set, figuratively and literally, for the brilliance which followed.
(But he didn’t do it alone, adults around him saw the nascent flame and paved his way.)
History teaches that Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s murderer, is the villain of the saga, in the show he is also presented as Hamilton’s alter ego who constantly competes with him from a darker place.
The actual villain, introduced in the second act, is Thomas Jefferson, who, on stage as in real life, operated behind the scenes constantly manipulating events.
In the production I saw, at the Kennedy Center, Jefferson is deliciously evil. He is ridiculed for sitting out the war at Monticello; did that color Washington’s view of him; smart but not of the warrior class?
Jefferson owned slaves and took one, Sally Hemings, as a long-term mistress, subverting his pledge to his dying wife not to remarry. He fathered several mixed-race children with her and then used them all to his heart’s content.
George Washington is the center of the power universe, the alpha-males all want his ear but the Washington/Hamilton bond is difficult to crack.
They lament, “What does it take to have Washington’s ear?” Apparently to not be overtly political as Washington despised that game.
Washington, probably sterile, had no biological son and his fatherly bond with Hamilton was strong, an attachment eventually spurned as Alexander comes of age and strikes out on his own.
But as the prodigal son he eagerly accepts Washington’s offer to serve in his cabinet, partially fulfilling a desire for power and fame.
Britain’s George the Third makes several delightful appearances in full kingly regalia and was, to my mind at least, a dead ringer for Tucker Carlson in speech, affect and overall prissiness. He rather stole the show.
Of Carlson and conservatives, what must they think of Hamilton, (the play) where virtually all of the principal actors are non-whites playing whites, many of whom owned (and bought and sold slaves)?
It is outrageous? Critical Race Theory run amok? A 21st century comeuppance? Or art unconstrained, as it should be?
Some of the Schuyler sisters, three of the 15 children born to Philip and Catherine Schuyler, became intertwined with Hamilton; he married one and was close to the other two — we could say they suffered for it. They provide some of the best vocals in the production.
Reputation and honor were everything in Hamilton’s time and the way to adjudicate a perceived slight to either was by dueling your opponent. Elaborate rules were used, some of which could turn the event into a benign farce; aiming high and purposely missing your opponent would allow the score to be settled without injury.
The paradox of the play (and their time) is that our greatest thinkers employed such barbaric acts to resolve personal conflicts.
Well, you know how it all ends but the visual artistry of creating a whirlwind of death, reaped on stage, was a splendid climax to an exciting evening.
They aimed high.