BWW Review: I HATE HAMLET at Oyster Mill Playhouse
I Hate Hamlet, by Paul Rudnick, first hit the stage in 1991. Set in actor John Barrymore's apartment, the play introduces the audience to Andrew Rally, a television actor considering an attempt at playing Hamlet. The characters, which include a television star, a Hollywood director, an agent, a realtor, John Barrymore himself, and a theatre-obsessed virgin girlfriend, are delightful, and the show is packed with humor. The Broadway run of the show was cut short when one of the actors was intentionally injured on stage. I Hate Hamlet opened at Oyster Mill Playhouse on Friday, August 17th.
The first thing audiences note is the set, which is quite impressive. Due to the size of the theatre and the way in which the set is constructed, the audience actually feels like they are in the living room of John Barrymore's old apartment. The props and set pieces are unique and absolutely perfect for the show, and the lighting is creative-including some special lighting effects-helping to set the emotional impact of the scenes.
Rebecca Lease, who portrays Felicia Dantine, a star-struck New York realtor, immediately brings a sense of energy to the stage with the very first entrance of the show. As she looks around to make sure everything is just right for showing the apartment to actor Andrew Rally, her excitement is palpable. In this writer's opinion, the show would have been well-served had the director chosen not to use the New York accent for Felicia. Unfortunately the accent was inconsistent, which was distracting. Lease's acting is strong enough to evoke "New York realtor" without the accent. Her facial expressions and interactions with the other actors-particularly Josh Lebo (who plays Andrew Rally) and Patrick Hughes (who portrays Gary Peter Lefkowitz)-serve to heighten the humor in the show and fit her character perfectly.
One of the funniest scenes in the show is the séance they hold in the apartment to summon John Barrymore. Lease's Felicia is fully convinced of her ability to contact her dead mother, and the juxtaposition of her optimism and enthusiastic sincerity to the blatant skepticism of Andrew Rally (Josh Lebo), brings the scene to life.
Jamie Hoyle and Margaret Morris portray the other two women in the show, Deirdre McDavey and Lillian Troy, respectively. In their first scene, opening night jitters were evident in the fact that the timing felt a little off-cue lines were not picked up as quickly as they should have been. However, as the play progressed and they relaxed into their roles, both women gave a solid performance. Morris positively sparkles in her final scene with Jeff Wasileski (who plays John Barrymore). The scene is funny yet tender. Hoyle plays an endearingly naïve and innocent Deirdre, and her interactions with Lebo's Andrew Rally, particularly in the second act are hysterical.
As Hollywood director Gary Peter Lefkowitz, Patrick Hughes is just the right level of over-the-top. From his posture to his attire to his facial expressions and vocal intonations, Hughes embodies the power/fame/money hungry Lefkowitz. His portrayal of Lefkowitz is energetic and consistent throughout the entire show and provides a contrast to Wasileski's Barrymore.
Lebo and Wasileski are brilliant as Andrew Rally and John Barrymore. Their comedic timing is spot-on. Wasileski's first entrance as Barrymore captures the audience's attention, and Lebo's facial expressions on seeing Barrymore unexpectedly appear in his apartment exemplify the astonishment bordering on fear at seeing the dead actor in the flesh. There are too many great moments between the two to mention them all. The fight scene in act 1 is well-choreographed, and Lebo and Wasileski execute it with great agility, humor, and intensity. In act 2, Lebo's delivery of Andrew Rally's description of his experience playing Hamlet is riveting. The entire audience is drawn in as he highlights the terrible parts of his performance and the one great moment when he becomes Hamlet. Wasileski and Lebo bring the show to a wonderfully funny close with their lesson on how to bow properly. The rapport between these two actors on stage is beautiful to watch and brings the characters and their relationship to one another to life.
If you're looking for some fun entertainment that provides lots of laughs, I Hate Hamlet at Oyster Mill is the perfect choice. Don't miss out on this funny show performed by a talented cast and crew. Get your tickets at www.oystermill.com!