Paul Rudnick’s comedy "I Hate Hamlet" directed by Bill Kincaid at the Brown County Playhouse offers an evening of involving drama and smart fun.
A Hollywood television actor played with engaging boyishness by Mark Bertram, has won the part of Hamlet for a performance in New York’s Central Park. The TV actor’s credits include his role as a doctor on a canceled series and commercials for "Trail Burst Clusters" breakfast and snack food. At on point the actor admits that "Trail Burst…" tasted like chocolate covered sawdust and had more fat calories than lard.
The actor’s rental agent, played in quintessential New York style by Diane Kondrat, sells him on an apartment that was the sanctuary of the great actor John Barrymore. Things really heat up when Rockland Mers shows up as the ghost of Barrymore in an appropriately stage commanding performance. He’s there to coach Bertram for his Hamlet.
The TV actor is far from confident about playing the "melancholy Dane." Barrymore alternately criticizes and encourages him. There’s verbal and physical sparring with an exciting extended sword fight choreographed by George Pinney. One of the magical moments of the evening was Mers reciting Hamlet’s charge to the players
Encouraging the actor are his girlfriend played with a slightly put-on dewy innocence by Lauren Morris Bertram and his agent played with graceful dignity by Martha Jacobs. On the other side are his cynical producer played with energy by Nicholas Amdor. Amdor is always contrasting the small monetary rewards of art in the theatre with the huge money available for fame on television. I think it was Amdor who said that Shakespeare was, "algebra on stage."
At intermission, I heard a lady next to me saying, "I just love all the jokes, but there are so many I can’t remember any of them." I remember quite a few, but it would take at least a second visit to the production to fully enjoy the richness of the dialog.
"I Hate Hamlet" at the Brown County Playhouse plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at eight through October twenty-sixth.