I Hate Hamlet
The Community Players welcome the new year with an enjoyable production of Paul Rudnick’s adorably corny comedy, "I Hate Hamlet," the story of a season in the life of a young actor eager to please everyone, including his fans, his agent, his girlfriend, and above all, his late idol.
A celebrity gone insane is hardly an anomaly, and while fame has proven to show the worst in people, it can also help bring out their best. Andrew Rally, the rising star protagonist of this thespian fable, played with dignity and humility by Ross Gavlin, is determined to prove he is an artist and not just a prime time celebrity.
Fresh off a hit television series and having just relocated from Hollywood to New York City, Andrew is beginning to have doubts about agreeing to take on the role of a lifetime, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It just so happens his new abode is the former home of his hero, stage and screen legend John Barrymore (an earnest albeit hilarious C. Richard Koster, Jr.), who famously played the Prince of Denmark.
Andrew’s cagey real estate agent, Felicia Dantine, portrayed with zest by Erika June Pastel, persuades him to remain in New York and then hosts a séance, which resurrects the lecherous, drunken Barrymore, dressed for the part and ready to put to rest any lingering doubts the young actor has about mastering the role.
Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Deirdre (a whiny, incorrigibly cute Christine Lariviere), has taken a vow of chastity, much to Andrew’s chagrin. He is further distracted by a lucrative job offer back home from his longtime, high-strung friend and former rep, Gary, played crazily but artfully by John Joseph Gomes.
While the premise of this 1991 play is indisputably silly and some of the dialogue is in need of editing or updating, the banter between the young Andrew and the aged (or deceased, rather) Barrymore remains fresh, fun and even profound.
Gavlin’s Andrew evolves from a wide-eyed, impressionable youngster into an ambitious professional, while Koster’s Barrymore helps to remind his admirer that underneath the boozy womanizer is an esteemed craftsman. I should note that their fencing scene alone is worth the cost of admission.
Eric Barbato finely directs this colorful cast of characters, which also includes Andrew’s agent, Lillian Troy (Sue Staniunas), an old German woman who was once an overnight guest in Barrymore’s home. The apartment, which now belongs to Andrew, makes for an especially attractive, colorful stage set, designed by Barbato and Brian Mulvey.
"I Hate Hamlet" is a pleasant, entertaining production that is reminiscent of old-fashioned Hollywood, but with a modern-day, supernatural twist.