As Hamlet tells the actors in Act 2, “For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to nature.” So does Barrymore (Thom Eric Sinn) depart this wisdom to the young Andrew Rally (Thomas Bowers) right before his debut acting exercise as Hamlet. The problem is, the play is a farce. So don’t imitate nature, play is ludicrous! Make it over the top and unbelievable. This and some other small things are off in this production of “I Hate Hamlet.” Not that it isn’t without merit- it just falls a little flat.
The story begins with Thomas Bowers (Andrew Rally) taking a NY apartment after his L.A. Medical television series has been cancelled. He has taken a role as Hamlet, to be performed in Central Park, and has rented an apartment that once belonged to John Barrymore (Thom Eric Sinn). When Real Estate Agent Felicia Dantine (Shanelle Fontaine) suggests a séance to evoke the essence of Barrymore, she awakens his spirit. Rounding out the cast are Andrew’s chastefully hippie girlfriend Deirdre McDavey (Katrina Jackson) and his friend from L.A. pitching a new pilot Jon Ingbretson (Gary Peter Lefkowitz).
The set and lighting at Spotlighters were really well done. I sincerely loved the floor treatment to look like hardwood (nice job!) and the fake fireplace for ambiance. I especially loved the little touches- a flip light switch used during the show and muffled nineties style buzzer for the apartment. Alan Zemla is credited with set design and Al Ramer is credited with lights. Along with set construction by Fuzz Roark and Props/Production/Stage Management by Hillary Glass and Mary Pohlig- I did believe I was in a 90s apartment.
The stand out stars of the evening were the ones that played to the comedy and farce. Shanelle Fontaine was pitch perfect as the fast-talking real estate agent Felicia Dantine. Not only were her outfits spot on (costuming by Hillary Glass), her mannerisms, accent, and hand gestures sold her performance. She was funny and a gem to watch on stage. Her séance scene where she dials her mother is comic gold. The other actor that nailed the farcical element was the sleazy money man from L.A., Jon Ingbretson played by Gary Peter Lefkowitz. His nervous shifting, his facial gestures, and insane outfits (Glass again) really painted his character. The other actors, Katrina Jackson as Deidre McDavey was delightfully light-hearted and kind, even if a 29-year-old virgin fixated on discussing sex with everyone she meets seems unbelievable enough. Thom Eric Sinn is lovely and smooth, even if he doesn’t fully seem to embody Barrymore’s ghost. And Thomas Bowers as Andrew Rally seems very stiff and unnatural. His shoulders rolled back for the majority of the show, his side-eye glances to watch the action seem not in sync with the rest of the performance. I will stay in the grain of him being a good actor who is pretending to be a bad actor (as his character dictates) and that is what makes him seem so outlandish.
All in all, these seems like a dated script. And other theater companies have tried to stage it recently with the same mixed bag reactions from the audience. Maybe it is just me, but, like Barrymore’s ghost, we should just put this script to rest.
Should I stay or should I go? I attended ten-spot Thursday, and got an adequate sense of entertainment for my yield. If you are in the neighborhood, and want to suspend disbelief for awhile, go see it. Otherwise, maybe wait until Spotlighters next performance. (I)
Running time is two hours and twenty minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.
Playing at Spotlighters Theater through March 4th.