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BWW Review: I HATE HAMLET at Playhouse On Park

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Ezra Barnes as John Barrymore

If you ask the average theater-goer their opinion of Shakespeare, you are bound to get a variety of answers. Some will immediately begin gushing about which of the bard's plays they have seen, which they like the best, or which they don't care for. Others will pretend to be fans, but make excuses anytime they are invited to one of his plays. But some will just say outright, "I hate Shakespeare", or in the case of Andrew Rally the television star who finds himself in the middle of a surreal, and altogether paranormal situation, "I Hate Hamlet!" That, however, is soon to change.

In its latest production of Paul Rudnick's I HATE HAMLET, Playhouse on Park offers West Hartford audiences an evening of conflict, love, comedy, and swashbuckling sword fights. Playing the previously mentioned TV doctor, Andrew Rally, Dan Whelton does a fine job of conveying the inner (and sometimes outer) conflict of following your dreams (and your passions) or taking the safer, albeit, less fulfilling road. Over the course of the evening, he takes his character from neurotic and floundering to confident and aware. And by his bow (and boy, what a bow!) the audience feels like it has been on its own journey of self-discovery.

The shining light of the production, however, is that of Ezra Barnes, portraying the ghost of John Barrymore, who

Ezra Barnes as John Barrymore (L) & Dan Whelton as Andrew Rally (R)" height="200" src=" 1.jpg" width="300" />
Ezra Barnes as John Barrymore (L) &
Dan Whelton as Andrew Rally (R)

arrives to help Andrew prepare for the role of a lifetime. Clad as the prince of Denmark, Barnes' Barrymore oozes charm and skill. He commands the stage and makes you believe you could be witnessing the actual return of this world famous actor. When he quotes from Hamlet, it makes you wish you could see him play Shakespeare for real (which might be easier said than done, Mr. Barnes is the founder and artistic director of Shakespeare on the Sound.) But outside of the soliloquies and iambic pentameter, Barnes is equally comfortable in the role of provocateur, lush, and Casanova.

The supporting cast of I HATE HAMLET is equally enjoyable. Susan Slotoroff, who plays Andrew's celibate, though extremely energetic girlfriend, Deirdre, saunters on and off the stage with such electricity and frenetic joy you can't help but smile. As Lillian, Ruth Neaveill conveys a hard German exterior, with a secret, soft, romantic heart. And Julia Hochner (as real estate agent, Felicia) and David Lanson (as Andy's multi-hyphenate friend Gary) added comic flair and lots of laughs to each of their scenes.

Julia Hochner as Felicia (standing),
Susan Slotoroff as Dierdre (R),
Dan Whelton as Andrew Rally (seated, center) &
Ruth Neaveill as Lillian (L)

Director Vince Tycer does a great job utilizing the open space of the Playhouse on Park stage and was able to coax multi-faceted performances out of each of his players. Soule Golden's costumes were totally radical (the play takes place in the 80's) and Emily Nichols' sets were a beautiful snapshot of tudor-like architecture. Joel Abbott's sound and Marcus Abbott's 4lighting also added the right ambiance to some of the more supernatural scenes.

All in all, Playhouse on Park, which BroadwayWorld readers voted the Best Professional Theatre Company in Connecticut, has done it again. With I HATE HAMLET, they have once again put on a production that thrills, surprises, makes you think, and makes you smile. So, whether you hate "Hamlet" or whether you love it, I HATE HAMLET is bound to please.


I HATE HAMLET runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through March 13th. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext 10 or visit Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119

Photo credits: Rich Wagner

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