The hilarity of <em>I Hate Hamlet</em> exists not only in its dialogue, but also in the actors' physical comedy.
Courtesy Photo

Circle Bar B Theatre ends this season on a high note with a hilarious production of I Hate Hamlet. The play is set in a New York apartment that was previously inhabited by the legendary actor John Barrymore. Andrew, a young TV actor, has just moved into Barrymore’s apartment. Although he achieved fame on the fictional television show L.A. Medical, Andrew feels woefully inadequate for the lead role in Hamlet at the Shakespeare Festival in Central Park. His real estate agent, Felicia, is mightily pleased with her discovery, which she describes in her loud New York accent as “preordained.” Susie Couch transforms convincingly into the gaudy, brash Felicia, giving her an air of humorous self-inflation. Felicia has never heard of Hamlet, but she can orchestrate a seance in order to summon the ghost of Barrymore.

The fun begins as soon as Barrymore appears in Hamlet’s costume-black velvet tights, codpiece and all. Embodying the younger, lithe Barrymore of the 1930s, Brian Harwell is marvelous at portraying the great actor’s complexity. When he is grandiose and pompous, he gestures broadly, saying, “I do not overact-I simply possess the emotional resources of 10 men!” Both seductive and tender, Barrymore proclaims that “Shakespeare is the most potent aphrodisiac.” We see just how true this line is when Deirdre, Andrew’s 29-year-old virgin girlfriend, gets excited about Hamlet.

The synergy between Andrew and Barrymore deepens at the beginning of Act II. To encourage a nervous Andrew before his debut, Barrymore recites an impassioned speech from Hamlet-the famous advice to the actors. In contrast, Andrew’s friend Lefkowitz (Adam Trent) cannot fathom why Andrew rejects a three-million-dollar offer by Hollywood and would rather perform “for the squirrels in the park.” The scenes with Andrew (Mike Driscoll) and Deirdre, his dreamy Goldilocks-like girlfriend (Leesa Beck), as well as a romantic interlude with Barrymore and his former lover Lillian (Kathy Marden) accentuate the melodramatic aspects. Whether or not you like Shakespeare, you’ll thoroughly enjoy I Hate Hamlet. It’s a clever, funny, and well-acted piece. Bravo, Circle Bar B!

Additionally, this production is donating a portion of its ticket sales to the performing arts programs at San Marcos and Dos Pueblos high schools.


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