There’s no getting around it:
“I Hate Hamlet” is thoroughly silly.
The Paul Rudnick play, currently on the Roadrunner Theatre Company stage, features a seance, the ghost of John Barrymore, a 29-year-old virgin, and an actor who admits he hates Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (something no self-respecting actor would admit, even if it were true).
And oh, is it fun.
Andrew (Lucas Gonzales) is a TV star who has moved to New York, where he has landed the juicy role of Hamlet in a Shakespeare in the Park production.
His apartment is a goth-heavy place where Barrymore once lived. His real estate agent, Felicia (Renata Rauschen), insists on calling up the ghost of the great actor, as famous for his drinking and carousing as he was for his Hamlet. He might be able to offer the conflicted Andrew some advice.
Andrew is conflicted because, well, his girlfriend won’t sleep with him, he hates Hamlet, and he’s scared that the stage won’t welcome him the way the TV screen did.
Throw into this mix Lillian (Ellie Vought), Andrew’s agent who once slept with Barrymore in this very apartment; Gary (Clark Andreas Ray), a sleazy Hollywood director, and Deirdre (Andrea Hickey), the girlfriend who is saving herself for marriage.
Mark Klugheit directed this production with a sense of fun and abandonment, which is how it should be — the script is too thin to do otherwise.
And his actors embraced it all.
Chris Koval took on the role of the over-the-top Barrymore. He hammed it up and we loved him for it.
Most would pale against such flamboyance, but Gonzales, as the insecure Andrew, held his own.
Ray often infuses his roles with bits that serve the character while upping the laughter. He does that with Gary, the sleazy Hollywood director.
Rauschen, Hickey and Vought all made the most of the sharp one-liners the playwright gave them.
“I Hate Hamlet” is thick with swipes at Shakespeare (“I went once,” one character says about Shakespeare in the Park. “It poured. Right on Coriolanus. Didn’t help. They kept going”); agents and real estate brokers (“I am Andrew’s agent. The scum of the Earth,” says Lillian when meeting Felicia. “Real estate,” she replies. “I win)”; and Hollywood types (“You don’t do art. You buy it,” Gary says to Andrew).
The play is more like a get-laughs-quick sitcom than a theater piece. But the laughs do come quickly, and boy, do we need them these days.