I Hate Hamlet – The Barrymost
A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE
You know, at the risk of sounding like Daisy Buchanan here: I do not hate Hamlet, but I do hate any time I have to go outside of the city. I hate nature and I hate suburbia. It is a marker of how much I care about you and about journalism that this intrepid reporter not drove out of Baltimore to Bowie to see I Hate Hamlet at 2nd Star Productions but actually had a drink at something called a Green Turtle (and somewhere Achilles just got the vapors – it’s okay honey, shhhh, I’ll meet you at Parts and Labor). I Hate Hamlet is a fluffy little bunny tale that is akin to a Jimmy Stewart vehicle running on a drowsy afternoon on AMC (old AMC, not Mad Men AMC). Television medical-soap star Andrew Rally (Zac Zeeks) has just moved to The Big Apple (TM) and rented out a terribly scenic-style Gothic apartment on the perhaps ill-advised advice of his real estate agent, Felicia Dantine (Nicole Mullins). Rally’s girlfriend, Deirdre McDavey (Malarie Novotny), is a Shakespeare nut and quickly twigs that it’s same apartment that belonged to John Barrymore (Fred Nelson), the legendary Hamlet stage actor and notable drunk/womanizer/blowhard. It isn’t long before the ghost of Barrymore is summoned up and becomes committed to spending at least part of his afterlife giving Andrew all kinds of insider tips. See, Barrymore can’t go off to heaven/hell until Rally accepts the role of Hamlet for a Shakespeare in the park jam instead of a new fame n’ money making series being pushed by sleazy L.A. producer Gary Peter Lefkowicz (Daniel Douek). I’ll warn you: opening scenes of this are sleepy and feel never ending. Everyone seems merely sufficient: Novotny is sufficiently bubbly, Zeeks is sufficiently grumpy, direction by John Wakefield is sufficiently direct, the lights are sufficiently on, etc., etc. The magic ingredient comes in the form, of course, of Nelson’s Barrymore. Nelson is so sure of himself that the role seems like a pair of comfy socks – and indeed, it should, as he’s played it twice before. He struts and crows and sashays his way around the stage like a rooster in a hen house, John Cleeseing it up all ova the place. He’s a broad, and I don’t mean that he’s in Paris. And, so help me God, it is really fucking funny. Once this shot of confidence hypos in, the whole show takes a swing upwards. Zeeks turns it on and turns it up as an actor that’s simultaneously horrified by this sudden possession yet also kind of glad for the career counseling. These two have remarkable chemistry (I mean, so do Zeeks and Novotny, but they’re engaged according to the program, so they probably should) and the best scenes in the show are where they are zinging off of each other. Novotny goes from a pretty pillowcase to an true Opheliactic weirdo in unicorn slippers. Her big eyes and giddily freakish performance walk the dark side hilariously well for my taste. Daniel Douek steps in as the slimy producer and there is just something about that man that tickles me to death. He’s just always so delightfully off in the most enjoyable of ways. The way he says: “Shakespeare, right? That’s like algebra for the stage!” just killed me. Set design by Jane B. Wingard is pleasingly buttressed and functionally gloomy with some nice levels and cut-outs to play in. Costumes (Amanda Lewis) were kind of eh for me, there was nothing particularly period about them that I could really see (the show is set in 1980) but all that is forgiven for the spectacularness of the golden codpieces. Seriously, those things should have their own bios in the program (“I’d like to thank my good friend, the taint, for all it has done to support me.”). I have a suspicion that the actors do their own makeup and if that’s the case, someone needs to tell Carole Long to dial back a bit on the aging gray. She’s a pretty woman, there’s no need to ash her out like ghoul. Oh, and oh! The fight choreography, normally just tragic in small theater, is really good here in a super-pleasingly long sequence. Nicely done, Mike Martin!
BOTTOM LINE: Is I Hate Hamlet worth dragging your cookies all the way out to Route 3? No. But then, the real Barrymore probably wouldn’t be enough to make me concede that one. J/k, I kid, I kid. While it’s maybe not cutting or particularly deep, this Hamlet has plenty swagger to like – it’s actually funny and actually good and that’s good enough for me. See it.
Running at 2nd Star Productions until February 22nd
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