I Hate Hamlet Review
Seances, ghosts and actors, what isn't to like?by Will Demers, EDGE
A television actor whose popular role has brought him fame and fortune is cancelled. That show won’t continue, but his agent books him to play Shakespeare in Central Park. The problem? He hates the show. Actually, he hates Shakespeare in general, and the thought of playing Hamlet is giving him pause.
“I Hate Hamlet” brings us into the life of Andrew Rally, trained actor and TV star. His realtor Felicia has brought him to the former apartment of late actor John Barrymore to live, his girlfriend Deirdre won’t give him sex and his Hollywood connection Gary wants him to go back to L.A. Lillian, Andrew’s agent, thinks “Hamlet” in the park is a great opportunity to showcase his talents. To further complicate this scenario, John Barrymore’s ghost shows up to pass the Hamlet baton to Andrew.
Barrymore (John Michael Richardson) can’t go back to wherever it was he came from until the tortured actor relents and plays the role. Andrew (Tom Bentley) is uninspired and horrified. Deirdre (Erin Elliot) isn’t going to give it up until she hears him deliver that soliloquy. and Gary (Charles Lafond) has another series in mind for Andrew, it pays incredibly well and he can have it, just no Shakespeare in the park. The results are truly hilarious.
Paul Rudnick’s play, directed here at 2nd Story Theatre by Mark Peckham, delivers the funny and slightly farcical work with ease. The cast is well-chosen, and they are all successful here in various roles. Paula Faber plays Lillian, an elderly German woman who may have had an affair with Barrymore, with a twinkle in her eye, gleefully instructing her actor to take the role of a lifetime. Elliot as Deirdre is delightful and funny as she explains to her boyfriend that sex is out of the question until marriage.
Isabel O’Donnell is the epitome of the New York professional, complete with accent and the ability to communicate with her dead mother, she is loud, funny and verbose. Lafond’s Gary waltzes in with a flourish, delivering one-liners with utter ease, he nearly steals each scene, and is quite funny. But the two leads here are excellent. Bentley’s Rally is neurotic, talky and nervous; he perfectly conveys the stalled Hollywood actor with perhaps questionable talent and we almost feel sorry for him.
Richardson’s Barrymore is more than just funny, he delivers Hamlet’s speech as though it was his last big role, and indeed it might have been for the late actor, his grand performance is hysterical yet sweet. Peckham’s direction is tight and lets his competent cast take flight with a funny, thoughtful piece that will have you wanting more. Seances, ghosts and actors, what isn’t to like?