BWW Reviews: Perceptions of Art Duel in Weathervane's I HATE HAMLET

BWW Reviews: Perceptions of Art Duel in Weathervane's I HATE HAMLET

As any English teacher can tell you, not everyone loves Shakespeare. For some it's like eating Brussels sprouts; it's something you know you should do but you aren't certain why and you certainly don't enjoy the process.

Paul Rudnick's, I HATE HAMLET skewers the differences of the perceptions of highbrow art and the disreputable, upside down world of pop culture with a fencing foil. Weathervane Playhouse presents the two-act, two-hour comedy June 21-June 30 at its theatre (100 Price Road in Newark).

In the play, actor Andrew Rally (played by Jack Baylis) finds himself without a job after his TV medical drama, "L.A. Medical," was canceled. He moves to New York in hopes of finding "serious" work. Because of his name recognition from the TV show and from an ill-advised appearance in a breakfast cereal commercial, he is immediately cast in the title role in a Shakespeare-in-the-park performance of HAMLET

There's just one problem ... as evidenced by the title of the show. Rally loathes a role that so many actors covet. Hoping to inspire her fearful client, agent Lillian Troy (a delightful turn by Linda Kinnison Roth) encourages Rally to stay in a house once owned by the late John Barrymore (William Joseph Bureau). When Rally mentions to his girlfriend, his agent and his relator that he hates Hamlet, the actor is confronted with the ghost of Barrymore, who famously portrayed Hamlet in London's West End.

Director Kevin Connell shows some masterful strokes in putting together this comedy with each member of his six-person ensemble bringing unique character development to I HATE HAMLET. Baylis' Rally starts the show as earnest and world weary as he reluctantly takes on Hamlet but grows into a Shakespearean actor as he takes direction from Barrymore's ghost. Bureau shines as a skirt-chasing, over-the-top thespian, whose libido has not been decreased by death. His art-for-art's sake persona is contrasted by Hollywood producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz (Brian Lundy), the producer of "L.A. Medical." Lefkowitz crassly dismisses Rally's ambitions: "You know, when I heard you were going through with this, I went, hey, maybe Andy's right. Maybe I should just chuck everything, leave LA, just produce, direct, and write Shakespeare. But I woke up."

One of the interesting quirks in Rudnick's script is in the first act, only those who aren't interested in Barrymore's version of Hamlet can see his ghost. The three women in the play - Troy, Rally's virginal girlfriend Felica Dantin (Megan Burger) and real estate agent Deirdre McDavey (Courtney Silber) - are all interested in the Barrymore mystique but are blinded to it.

Burger played Dantine with a Kristen Schaal like flair, especially the moments when she is being seduced by an actor she cannot see while supporting the one she can. Roth handles the German accent needed for Troy and captures her longing for Barrymore, whom she once had a fling with. Silber emulates perfectly a person who would go to see a Shakespearean tragedy because there's a McDreamy type actor playing the lead role. You could see McDavey attending Shakespeare in the Park but leaving early to watch the end of REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY.

The depth of the performances matches the script. Rudnick, who lived in Barrymore's brownstone in New York, dabbled in both forms of art. He wrote the critically acclaimed play, JEFFREY and was a screenwriter on commercially successful films ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES and INSIDE & OUT. His writing and the Weathervane cast's performance takes the comedy beyond a simple parody and turns it into something that maybe even Shakespeare and Barrymore might have enjoyed. They turned I HATE HAMLET into art.

Weathervane Playhouse presents Paul Rudnick's I HATE HAMLET 7:30 p.m. June 21-23 and June 27-30 with a 2 p.m. matinee on June 23. For information call 740-366-4616.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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