Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet is Hilarious
Paul Rudnick's comedy opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre on March 18, 1991, and is known for the antics of Nicol Williamson playing the late John Barrymore during the 88-day run (Evan Handler, who played the television actor, was yelled at during the famous dueling scene by Williamson, who then made his point, sharply, drawing blood with his foil during the sword fight scene. Handler responded by making an unscheduled stage exit and did not come back to finish the play. On the last night of the run Williamson made a curtain speech criticizing the Tony nomination process that did not acknowledge his show, saying "Everything about it is appalling.")
I Hate Hamlet centers on Andrew Rally (Kalon Thibodeaux), a young actor who has just earned fame and fortune on a television show about doctors. He is apprehensive about returning to New York to play Hamlet in the prestigious Central Park Shakespeare festival. His realtor Felicia Dantine (Amanda Mitchell) has rented an apartment to him which once inhabited by John Barrymore. Andrew's girlfriend Deirdre (Sofia Ahmad), a 29-year-old rich virgin, is over the moon about the apartment and her boyfriend playing Hamlet.
A séance lead by Felicia brings the ghost of John Barrymore (Robert Hamm) back to the apartment, and the rest of the play is clever dialogue bordering almost on Neil Simon's type of writing as the deceased actor offers guidance to the young actor. TV producer/director Gary Peter Lefkowitz (Timothy Beagley) tempts Andrew to come back to L.A. to star in a new "no brainer" series. Andrew faces the decision of playing the difficult role of Hamlet for peanuts or going back to Hollywood where he will get easy money from the new television series.
I Hate Hamlet lampoons greedy realtors, inane Hollywood producers and directors, exaggerated but well meaning actresses, and hard-drinking womanizing actors. Much of the humor is from the play's energy and the serious issues that have swirled around the Prince of Denmark since the Bard created him on stage. The young actor playing Hamlet gains insight about himself and becomes a better person with greater self-confidence.
Director Mike Reynolds has assembled a fine cast to portray the six characters. Kalon Tribodeaux (Minnie's Boys, The Boys from Syracuse, Red, Hot and Blue at 42nd St Moon) gives a galvanizing performance as Andrew. His comic timing is excellent and his athletic ability and movements are first rate. Robert Hamm (has played in every major regional theatre in the Bay Area) gets the hammy part of the Barrymore character right, with some excellent shadings of the great Shakespearean actor.
Marie Shell (All My Sons at TheatreWorks and Menopause, the Musical) gives a heartfelt performance of Lillian Troy and is spot on with a Viennese accent. Sofia Ahmad (Much Ado about Nothing at SF Shakespeare Festival) as the virginal girlfriend Deirdre is very good, although she does go over the top in her role as an excited young woman who does a lot of screaming. Amanda Mitchell (recently arrived here from South Dakota where she received a BA in Theatre) as the realtor Felicia does a good imitation of Fran Drescher. Rounding out the cast is Timothy Beagley (played in every East Bay regional theatres) playing the sleaziest immature Hollywood director and producer on record.
I Hate Hamlet plays at the California Conservatory Theatre located at 999 East 14th Street, San Leandro through December 18th. For tickets call 510-632-8850. Visit their web site at www.cct-sl.org.
Their next production is Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy.