EZRA BARNES AS JOHN BARRYMORE PHOTO BY RICH WAGNER
When successful Los Angeles television star Andrew Rally moves to New York City on a whim, settling into an apartment previously owned by the grand theatrical force John Barrymore, strange things start happening. Playwright Paul Rudnick has conjured up a particularly clever premise in his comedy offering “I Hate Hamlet” gracing the stage of Playhouse on Park in West Hartford until Sunday, March 13.
Andrew clearly has a comfort zone. Playing a doctor on a television series is an easy fix, but when he gets to the Big Apple he is offered the starring role in Shakespeare’s classic tragedy playing Hamlet in the Park. After he accepts the challenge, he changes his mind and wants to back out. Dan Whelton’s Andrew has a Greek chorus of voices urging him to say yes or to say no. Whelton plays conflicted very well as his girlfriend Deirdre (Susan Slotoroff) can’t wait for him to tread the boards as does his psychic realtor Felicia (Julia Hochner). His agent Lillian (Ruth Neaveill) is all for his donning tights and wielding a sword.
Pushing him to go in the opposite direction is friend Gary (David Lanson) who has decidedly other plans: a lucrative television season of 24 episodes, on
a new show "Night School,” dangling a paycheck in the millions. As Andrew agonizes over his decision, he receives a powerful push from the undisputed star of the Shakespeare sphere: John Barrymore’s ghost. Ezra Barnes is persuasive and potent as the master manipulator who wants to inspire the reluctant protagonist to strike a victory for the Bard.
Using encouraging arguments and dramatic swordplay, the legendary star challenges him to take a risk, with full support from the spiritual world, of course. Can the sweet Prince of Denmark be convinced to trust his own acting chops? Will Deirdre provide physical confirmation of her faith? Will Gary
use greed to convince him to forsake glory for the lure of the almighty dollar? Vince Tycer directs this duel of desires on a tasteful penthouse set conceived by Emily Nichols.
For tickets ($15-35), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10, or online at www.playhouseonpark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Let one of the greatest Hamlets of all time, even if he is often in his cups, try to convince one of the newest actors on the scene to rise to the occasion and fortify his backbone to take that great leap of faith that spells stardom.