Thoughts & Musings

BWW Reviews: I HATE HAMLET at 2nd Story

Got twenty-fie bucks? Get over to see it!

by Larry O'Brien,
  • 17th July 201517/07/15
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I HATE HAMLET by Paul Rudnick is a very funny play being given an excellent production at 2nd Story Theater in Warren. 2nd Story is on a roll of comedies this summer, mostly of the dark variety, but this one has no dark shadows (Well, one shade–the ghost of John Barrymore, but he is a friendly ghost) and is just plain hilarious. Got twenty-fie bucks? Get over to see it.

The plot of I HATE HAMLET has a young tv star (Andrew Ralley as played by Tom Bentley) in between appropriate vehicles somehow ending up cast as Hamlet in a Shakespeare in the Park production, while coincidentally living in an apartment which had previously been home to the legendary John Barrymore. The ghost of Barrymore (John Michael Richardson) is summoned in a séance-of-the absurd, and away we go! How much fun it must have been for Rudnick to come up with lines like a real estate agent (Isabel O’Donnell) asking an actor about his upcoming role, “Is it the real Hamlet, or is it a musical?” Or the TV director (Charles LaFond) who unwittingly plays off Hamlet’s soliloquy, “ugh death-the third coast.”

Mark Peckham has directed this piece and pulled all the elements together quite nicely. While the play focuses on Ralley and the Ghost of Barrymore, each supporting player has been given some excellent lines to deliver, and none fail. Trevor Elliot’s set, Ron Cesario’s costumes and Marc Tiberiis lighting all contribute to a real hoot of an evening. The production moves along at a pretty good pace, and it seemed like every one of Rudick’s one-liners landed.

But what really make this work are two non-comic scenes. The first is a duel scene between Rally and Barrymore: I am sure it was exciting throughout the theater; from the front row it was positively mesmerizing! The second, and more important, is Richardson’s delivery of Hamlet’s direction to the actors in Act 3, scene 2 of Hamlet, the real play not the musical. Richardson has to make you believe he IS Barrymore, and he nails it. The press night audience broke into applause, and he was worthy of it: an island of poignancy in a sea of jokes.

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