I Hate Hamlet has been around only about 10 years, yet the play feels like a fine old friend -- comfortable without being complacent, funny without being ridiculous. Like any good pal, Paul Rudnick’s comedy still needs to be treated with regard -- even this warm story can turn cool if handled thoughtlessly. Luckily, St. Bart’s Players approached the play with a nice blend of sentiment and humor, and made this crowd-pleaser all the more friendly.
I Hate Hamlet is the story of Andrew, a minor TV star who moves from LA to New York and finds himself living in an apartment once occupied by the legendary actor John Barrymore. Andrew is about to pass up the role of a lifetime -- that of Hamlet in a production in Central Park -- until he’s visited by the ghost of Barrymore, who convinces him to take the part, then tutors him in the ways of the Dane.
As Andrew, Brad Negbaur was easy to like, fashioning a role energetic yet composed. As Barrymore, Bennett Pologe strutted the stage, clearly fond of his egotistical character and all the funnier for it. When together, Negbaur and Pologe were lively, a well-matched pair of actors who complemented each other’s skills. Only when the minor characters appeared did the play’s timing begin to lag -- jokes lost some of their punctuation, wisecracks sounded just a bit duller. Still, Negbaur and Pologe controlled the stage throughout most of the two acts and together kept the show playful and spirited.
Roy B. Steinberg’s direction smoothly guided the cast, and had the two hours running at a brisk but unhurried pace. Charlie Calvert’s apartment set -- complete with a suit of armor, fireplace, and a globe with bottles of booze stashed inside -- was top-notch, and appeared even more impressive under Elizabeth Gaines’s lighting.
St. Bart’s Players performance of I Hate Hamlet was an unabashed good time. Like the actors it portrayed, the production was good-natured and optimistic, and in the hands of this company, left the audience feeling much the same.
(Also featuring: Judy Karasik, Tracey Altman, Judith Tsanos, and Edward Kassar)
Lighting: 2/Sound: 1
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Copyright 2002 Ken Jaworowski