Talented cast does well by funny 'I Hate Hamlet'

September 10, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

Humphrey Bogart had a lot to teach the nebbishy Woody Allen in "Play It Again, Sam," and the lessons of that successful play/film didn't escape playwright Paul Rudnick.

Substitute the celebrated American actor John Barrymore for "Bogey," and you have the gist of Mr. Rudnick's "I Hate Hamlet," the clever comedy that opens the 1993-94 season at The Colonial Players of Annapolis.

Andrew Rally is a vacuous Hollywood actor who's been asked to perform "Hamlet" at New York City's "Shakespeare in the Park" after the cancellation of his schlocky TV series.

While agonizing over the invitation -- to be or not to be a real actor -- he moves into John Barrymore's old apartment and, well, you'll never guess whose ghost still frequents the place. As the specter takes the young actor by the hand, great lessons of art and life are learned.

But cutesy and formulaic as this all might sound, "I Hate Hamlet" is a very clever, funny play. Comic insights abound as Hollywood, method acting and -- yes -- even Shakespeare

himself are spoofed. The Barrymore persona is revealed respectfully and affectionately, but with "warts and all" honesty.

The Colonial cast is delightfully talented. Tom Boynton is larger than . . . er . . . death as the great Barrymore. His baritone booms, his comic timing is extraordinary, and he bows funnier than anyone I've ever seen.

Patrick McConnell is ingratiatingly wimpy as the would-be Prince of Denmark, and Kristen Valerio is hilarious as his actress girlfriend who adores Shakespeare but can't get a rhyming couplet out of her mouth without overdoing it.

Georgia Morgan is quite good as the real estate yenta with ESP (her mother is still trying to marry her off from "the other side"), and Dan Kanaugh is very funny as the Hollywood agent who can't begin to understand why his client is messing around with the classical theater. "An actor," he says, "is a British guy who can't get a series."

Play it again, John.

"I Hate Hamlet" runs through Oct. 2. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays. Sunday matinees are 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 and 26. Tickets are $7 and $10. Information: 268-7373.

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