Review: I HATE HAMLET at Phoenix Theatre

Now through April 30th

By: Apr. 09, 2023
Review: I HATE HAMLET at Phoenix Theatre
Review: I HATE HAMLET at Phoenix Theatre
Josiah C. Miller and Jag in I HATE HAMLET
at The Phoenix Theatre.
Photo Credit: Lauren Kottwitz

I HATE HAMLET is a delightful romp for Shakespeare aficionados and newbies alike. The witty repartee just keeps coming as playwright Paul Rudnick dishes out great dialogue and some killer one liners. Nothing is funnier than actors making fun of actors, and I HATE HAMLET does it well. Despite its focus on one of the greatest dramas ever written, the show puts comedy front and center.

I HATE HAMLET follows the story of actor Andrew Rally who has not only been cast as Hamlet for NYC's Shakespeare in the Park but has also moved into the former home of John Barrymore, legendary Hamlet actor. Rally's real estate agent, Felicia Dantine, is thrilled with the connection and thinks it's destiny. His girlfriend, Deirdre, is extremely enthusiastic about his opportunity to play Hamlet. His manager, Lillian Troy, tries to buoy Andrew's confidence, but he is uncertain. Felicia suggests they have a seance to contact John Barrymore for advice. They get more than they bargained for as John Barrymore appears in full form, but only Andrew can see him. Barrymore seeks to guide Andrew and make a Hamlet of him yet. A wrench is thrown in the plans as TV director, Gary Peter Lefkowitz, arrives from LA with a great offer for Andrew. Now Andrew must decide what he wants and what he must do to get it.

The cast of I HATE HAMLET is a tight-knit ensemble where each member leans into the stereotypes and milks them for all the laughs. Susan Connors' portrayal of real estate agent Felicia Dantine hits so squarely on the nose that you might swear you really know her from a recent open house. Her charm and unflappable attitude could steamroll the best of them. Mary Guthrie Leedy as Deirdre McDavey is a wide-eyed optimist with a heavy dose of naiveté. She's at her best when delivering the dumb blonde lines without even knowing she's funny. Dawn Cornell as Lillian Troy presents a character with layers that are slowly revealed. Her uptight German manager is all business. Dawn's eyes of steel could cut, and if they don't get you her sharp witty barbs will.

Thomas A. Glass as Gary Peter Lefkowitz fulfills every California stereotype. He is money-driven and more than a little clueless. His smarmy self-assurance makes his lack of theater knowledge even funnier. Glass delivers some of the best one liners of the show. Josiah C. Miller as Andrew Rally is a powerful protagonist. His expressive face could be used to make new emojis. He delivers Hamlet's soliloquy in both good and bad versions and is equally entertaining at both. Jag as John Barrymore is simply satisfying. He is everything he should be and even a little bit more. The part fits him as well as Hamlet's tights. Jag and Miller together are even better and create the heart of the show.

I HATE HAMLET is a show that doesn't require a lot of bells and whistles as it relies heavily on the text. However, the artistic team provided everything that was needed to support the show. The costumes by Elizabeth Shipman helped play into the stereotypes and even add a layer of humor. The set design by Craig Marshall gave the actors different areas to interact while still keeping open spaces for movement. The set dressing by Susan Connors provided visual interest and great detail. Fight Director Geoffrey Alm created a fencing scene that was not your typical one, two hits, but had great variety and movement, and most impressively great speed. Direction by Keith Dahlgren felt like gentle guardrails for seasoned actors who were allowed to play. The pacing was quick and purposeful yet allowed room for jokes to land.

I HATE HAMLET is simply a good show done well by the good folks at Phoenix Theatre. While the show is not designed to be hard-hitting and revelational, it is designed to be and succeeds in being good entertainment. Live theater is simply about a group of people coming together for a shared experience and connection. And I can't think of a better experience to share than taking a friend to see I HATE HAMLET at The Phoenix Theatre in Edmonds.


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