"I Hate Hamlet," the delightful Paul Rudnick comedy now on stage through Feb. 24 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island, is packed with fun performances by a capable cast. You will enjoy the story and love the optimistic outcome.
This situational comedy -- with the Shakespearean twist -- has a hefty, hilarious script, set against much action and brilliant rejoinders. But you need not have a position about Hamlet, pro or con, to enjoy the highly entertaining story delivered through an amusing series of moments in time. The one liners kept me laughing all the way home.
The show, nailed down by six impressive professionals, Brad De Planche, James Donadio, Amelia Mathews, Marina Re, Jane Ridley and Ethan Saks -- all of whom should be familiar to Arts Center regulars -- and directed by Russell Treyz -- whose work we've all enjoyed and appreciated through the years -- is all about theater, values, women, relationships, respect, trust, success, money ... and even real estate.
But let me go no further before I give you an overview of the tangled, ahem, plot. The story revolves around a young television actor, Andrew Rally, (Saks), who has come to New York City to play Hamlet in the city's popular outdoor production. He is renting an apartment in Greenwich Village, which comes with incredible and unanticipated provenance. More about that, later.
It is clear that Andrew is not only torn about his decision to leave his very lucrative West Coast TV series, but he also realizes that, for whatever reason, he truly hates Hamlet, again, for whatever reason.
The fun truly moves to the next level, after we become familiar with his issues, his women and his future, when the audience, along with Andrew, comes face to face with, if you can imagine, the very real ghost of John Barrymore, as Hamlet, (Donadio).
Barrymore, of course, is a famous American Shakespearean actor, legendary for his portrayal of Hamlet -- oh, and for his drinking and his dalliances with his leading ladies. Barrymore's ghost wants to mentor Andrew and teach him everything necessary to successfully carry off "Hamlet in the Park." He is delightful as he pops in and out of Andrew's reality, charmingly, neatly and zestfully.
Enriching the story are the women in Andrew's world: his long-standing, virtuous (sigh) girlfriend, Deidre McDavey (played by Mathews, who is returning to the arts center's stage after her appearance in "The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940"); the hard-hitting Lillian Troy (played by Ridley, whom you will remember in the recent "Lend Me a Tenor"); and Felicia Dantine (played by Re, who was just here in "The Unexpected Guest").
And, if that were not enough, we meet the animated, irreverent, fast-living and fast-drinking Gary Peter Lefkowitz (played by DePlanche, who also returns to the arts center's stage after an eight-year absence). This deal maker adds to the story as he works to snatch Andrew from the "Hamlet" gig, and return with him to the West Coast with an even more remunerative series awaiting their participation. What great dimension he adds to the plot as it thickens.
The set, a striking reproduction of the actual Greenwich apartment in which Barrymore lived, and where Rudnick lived as he was writing the play, is a knock out, right down to the last detail, including a giant portrait of Barrymore, and all of the additional Greek Revival accoutrements. It is the perfect backdrop for the play's action, from flamboyant moments of romance -- or attempted romance -- to a full-on fencing sequence, swords and all.
Treyz is loaded with talent and determination. He brought forth everything needed to stage this highly entertaining play, adding just the spin to send it up with polish and shine. What fun.