Sloppiness hampers thrilling adaptation of 'Hamlet'

Table 8 director Troy Heard proves he may be on to something in his conception of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," now at the Onyx. This 90-minute modern-day adaptation gives the show a thriller feel that feels very right. What's wrong, though, is the sloppiness that permeates from beginning to near end.

As we enter we're met onstage with, among other things, a full-length mirror. It gives the theater depth and helps suggests the kind of understated eloquence that might be home to a smart royal family.

But once the lights come up, you're blinded by reflection glare. And the mirror never disappears. Was the director so carried away by the look that he failed to notice the downside?

When the actors start to angst, there's lots of yelling and weeping, with little progression in performance. When the big speeches come your heart sinks at the mutilated language. It makes you wonder why Heard, with all his tinkering (some of it quite good), didn't just dump the poetry and put the dialogue in an easy style that community-theater actors could handle.

Perhaps the key to a director's script sensitivity is the way the small roles of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are portrayed. The messengers are dimwitted, but there's no indication that they're flamboyant boobs. Heard has one played as a cartoon fool, the other an effeminate nerd. He also has the character of an actor played as a flaming queen. And he's got Hamlet getting yucks by planting a long, sloppy kiss on his stepdad's cheek. Seems Heard just can't get enough of "girly men" jokes.

Ronn L. Williams Jr., though, has a marvelous, simple moment as The Ghost; it's the one time Heard's conception is totally realized. Kim Glover in the brief role of Hamlet's mother Gertrude demonstrates an unusual ability to quickly get to the heart of her character's grief. And the final death scene is a showmanship of great fight choreography (by Sean Critchfield) and dramatic precision.

The Ghost, Gertrude, the final scene and Sandy Stein's eerie music suggest what could be if Heard were to get his adaptation and direction to better mesh with his story. And, please, do something about all that yelling.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.