Hot-rod Hamlet

The Hamlet Project: One Act of Sex and Death

Directed by Monica Henderson
Sande Shurin Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Julie Halpern

(adapted by Henry David Clarke and Monica Henderson from William Shakespeare's play as published in the First Folio of 1623)

Icarus is to be commended for its fine adaptation of Hamlet as it was published in the First Folio in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. It isn't easy to condense the play's three-plus hours into a 90-minute one-act, but this version is exceptionally fluid -- with most of the major speeches, and attendant mayhem and murder, intact. The six actors doubled and tripled in a variety of roles, and a number of exceptional performances resulted. Off-Off-Broadway audiences do not often have the good fortune to experience performances of the quality James Kiberd, William Metzo, and Jane Nichols contributed, and Shakespeare aficionados will appreciate the opportunity to observe these super-talented pros.

Director Monica Henderson was well-versed in the challenges offered by the play often considered Shakespeare's most problematic, and encouraged her talented cast to take artistic risks, which for the most part paid off in sensitive performances, particularly in the smaller roles. At times, however, Henderson seemed awed by her more celebrated cast members, and perhaps gave them more attention than the younger actors, with a negative impact on the younger actors' performances. James Kiberd, whose Leontes in The Winter's Tale at the West End Theatre was a highlight of last season, returned as a sensual, larger-than-life Claudius, sizzling in his scenes with Nichols, and was also a compelling Ghost. He was matched by Nichols's physically delicate but steel-spined Gertrude. William Metzo was a powerful, gorgeous-voiced presence as Polonius.

Rebecca White was a robust, high-spirited Ophelia, who seemed too indestructible to die as she did. White fully physicalized her madness but otherwise had difficulty conveying the complicated emotional life necessary for this character. Henry David Clarke's Hamlet was also beautifully physicalized but relied too much on subtext, rather than utilizing the play's powerful text, missing out on dramatic opportunities which could have taken his performance to a higher level. Jeremy Beck's impassioned Laertes was a joy, but he was given far too little stage time relative to the other actors.

Erin Billings's and Dena Verdesca's lavender-and-blue-draped costumes created a graceful, classical look, which was enhanced by the subtle blue, lavender, and gold lighting by Dana Sterling. Abigail Hart Grey and David Burns's maze-like set added an unsettling ambience, as did Shawn Feeney's haunting incidental music.
Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Set: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Julie Halpern