Allens Lane Theater company, directed by Mariangela Saavedra offers an evening of community fun with I HATE HAMLET, a lighthearted comedy about theater’s favorite topic: theater. The piece was written in 1991 by Paul Rudnick, author of Sister Act and In & Out, and the humor is comfortably dated. It almost plays as a nineties sitcom, but with the ghost of John Barrymore as the kooky roommate.
Allens Lane regular, Patrick Carthcart, plays TV sensation Andrew Rally, who’s recently moved from LA to NY to try his hand at Hamlet. He happens to rent the house of the definitive Ham, John Barrymore. Barrymore’s ghost (Larry Arrigale) is sent to help Andrew and dissuade him from returning to LA. Arrigale has a great time filling Barrymore’s…tights. He includes the audience in his fun with a raise of his eyebrows, and his voice is perfect for an old time star of the stage. He stumbles on a number of lines, but returns to character quickly. Perhaps the funniest moment is when he teaches Andrew the bow, narrating the over-the-top expressions “Oh who me?” “Your humble servant”, showing us how self aware he really is about his exaggerated personality.
In a play about caricatures, I guess it’s hard to ask for depth. Cathcart is a solid actor as usual, but has one nervous emotion until he awkwardly switches to a method Shakespearan during a sword fight made silly by the Princess Bride backing track. He mostly serves as a straight man for Barrymore and Gary, Andrew’s LA friend who is as shallow as his trompe l’oeil tuxedo t-shirt. Anthony Marsala as Gary is a comic light in this production, nailing the stereotypical idea of West Coast capitalism and delivering gems of one liners, “You don’t do art, you buy it.” He is perfectly matched for snappy broker Felicia Dantine. She has some one liners herself, and Sarah Heddins delivers them with perfect New York accent and timing.
For some reason, Anna Pysher’s overly-effusive depiction of Deirdre, Andrew’s wealthy girlfriend, also has an accent like she’s from a low-income neighborhood in Queens, so we miss out on Rudnick’s ribbing of East Coast high society. Thankfully, Jessica McDonald roots the cast with her knowing performance of Andrew’s agent and Barrymore’s former lover, Lillian. The writing tries to make a German stereotype of her, but she is somehow able to find compassion and humor in her character.
In the end, both Andrew and Barrymore decide not to sell-out. Recognizing their flaws doesn’t keep them from doing art, it pushes them to do more. As the real Barrymore learned, life is easier when you can laugh at yourself and continue striving for art, no matter what the critics have to say
[Allens Lane Theater, 601 W. Allens Lane] May 4-20, 2018; allenslane.org