Review: ‘I Hate Hamlet’
There’s nothing to hate about ‘I Hate Hamlet’ at the Hilberry Theatre
Andrew Rally hates “Hamlet.” It’s not that he has anything against the play itself, but like many people, anything by Shakespeare is simply written off as old fashioned, incomprehensible and not worthy of attention.
But unlike most people, Rally is a popular television actor who is offered a chance to play one of theater’s greatest tragic characters in a summertime production in New York’s Central Park. Should he take the low-paying job when there’s a more lucrative TV offer on the table? After all, how important is Shakespeare when television is beckoning?
It’s that type of effete snobbery that’s at the heart of Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet,” a much appreciated comedy sandwiched between more serious works at Detroit’s Hilberry Theatre.
It’s a decision that professional actors have faced since the dawn of television – and the movies, for that matter: Should financial security and fame ever triumph over art and personal growth?
Actors on the east coast have a different perspective than those on the west, of course: Only those on the legitimate stage are “actors”; film and video performers are simply pretenders to the throne.
Naturally, Hollywood-types disagree. And therein lies the premise of Rudnick’s very funny script.
Rally, whose TV series was recently cancelled, returns to New York looking for new opportunities and takes possession of an apartment where larger-than-life actor John Barrymore once lived. What Rally doesn’t expect, however, is that the apartment comes complete with Barrymore himself, thanks to a sance led by a psychic real estate agent who’s better summoning dead actors than anyone realized.
The good news for Rally is this: Barrymore is there to “pass the torch” from one Danish Prince to another. The bad news is that the ghostly actor cannot to return to the afterlife until after Rally performs the role.
For a lightweight actor such as Rally, it’s the role – and the challenge – of a lifetime.
One which Rally has no intention of performing!
With “I Hate Hamlet,” Rudnick has great fun not only paying tribute to Shakespeare’s famous play, but also skewering much about the industries in which he works. And director James Luse builds upon that framework with a very physical production that had the audience walking out of the opening night performance singing its praises.
With good reason, thanks to the fine performances of three hard-working, third-year graduate students who are obviously having a blast in this production!
Amanda Rae Jones is delightful as Dierdre McDavey, Rally’s 29-year-old innocent, yet sex-starved, girlfriend who wants “to make sure” before having sex for the very first time – ever!
And Chris Roady is perfect as Rally’s colorful friend, TV producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz, who can’t understand why anyone would rather do “algebra on stage” than star in a TV show with a guaranteed seven-figure income.
But it’s Tony Bozzuto who especially shines as Barrymore. Forget that he’s too young to play the role – that’s what often happens in University-run theater programs. Instead, watch his grand gestures, his facial expressions and his comic timing. What you see is an actor mining the part for all it’s worth – and doing it well!
First-year student Patrick Moltane looks great in tights, but took a while to warm into the role of Rally on opening night. (Was it a case of life imitating art, one could ask?) He especially worked well in his scenes with Bozzuto.
Also in the show are Tiffanie Kilgast as realtor/psychic Felicia Dantine and Jennifer McConnell as Rally’s agent, Lillian Troy.
“I Hate Hamlet” Performed in Repertory at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave., Detroit, through March 24. Tickets: $15 – $22. 313-577-2960. http://www.theatre.wayne.edu/t_hilberry.html.
The Bottom Line: Although you might hate “Hamlet,” you’ll love the first-rate performances by three third-year students in this production!
Tidbits: News from Around Town
‘Vagina Monologues’ returns; Uber-lesbians in Lansing
ITEM: It’s V-Day time once again, which means Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” will once again be used to help raise awareness – and funds – to battle violence against women.
University of Detroit Mercy is the first to stage the production, with a performance scheduled for Monday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom on the school’s McNichols Campus. Tickets are $15 for the show or $35 for the show and an afterglow honoring Prof. Jane Schaberg, this year’s “Vagina Warrior.” Produced by UDM’s Women’s Studies Program and The Theatre Company, the beneficiary will be Simon House, a residential home for women who are HIV+ and their children. For tickets or other information, call 313-993-2487.
Then, on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., the Emerald Theater in downtown Mt. Clemens will host a production to benefit Turning Point, Inc., an organization that provides programs and resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Admission is $25. Tickets and other information can be obtained by calling Turning Point, Inc. at 586-463-4430.
ITEM: Shows with lesbian themes seem to be popular this season, with Lansing’s OTHER professional theater company, Icarus Falling, presenting the world premiere of “White Elephant” by Lisa Konoplisky. It’s one of three short plays being promoted as “A Cure for the Valentine’s Hangover.”
“Both the actors and the audiences have come to enjoy this unique slot in our season,” observes IF’s Artistic Director, Jeff Croff. “There are so many wonderful short form plays, it’s a treat to bring them to Lansing. By exploring this format we also shake the audiences’ typical assumptions of an evening of theater.”
“White Elephant” is a farcical and poignant glimpse into the lives of two uber-lesbians who are obsessed with the trappings and motions of being lesbian, but who are unable to express their true feelings. Throw in a gun-toting, 6′ tall parrot, an internationally famous lesbian hostage negotiator and a walking EPT strip, and this show careens from surreal to the sublime.
The play – along with the Michigan premieres of “Fifteen Minutes” by Dave DeChristopher and “Valentine Fairy” by Ernest Thompson – will be presented at Lansing’s Creole Gallery on Feb. 18 – 19 and 25 – 26 at 8.pm. Playwright Konoplisky will participate in a talk-back following the Feb. 18 performance.
Tickets are $10 at the door.
For more information, call 517-290-4375 or go online to http://www.icarusfalling.com.