Shakespeare 101: I Hate Hamlet

hamletThe choice between art and money is at the heart of I Hate Hamlet, an offbeat comedy about an actor plagued by insecurities. Andrew Rally (Chris Plonka), the handsome star of a television show called “LA Medical,” moves to New York and has landed the role of a lifetime: Hamlet. Andrew has a lot of problems. Not only does he hate Hamlet, but his bubbly girlfriend Deidre (a delightful Caraline Connor) won’t have sex with him and his posh new home is haunted by the ghost of its previous occupant: legendary film actor John Barrymore. Meanwhile, Andrew’s self-obsessed agent friend Gary (Alvaro Beltran) offers him a new television series that could be very lucrative. Will Andrew walk away from playing Hamlet for the chance to be the star of another hit television show?

Playwright Paul Rudnick’s dialogue is witty and sends up show business cliches. The best scenes in the show are the byplay between Andrew and Barrymore, who is played by Rick Bagley in a winning performance. Bagley has an irresistible twinkle in his eye as he strides across the stage, informing Andrew about the glory of bringing Hamlet to life. He is having a blast, and that energy radiates to the audience.

Director Christian O’Brien has a great sense of pacing and gets the most out of  the ensemble cast, who all deliver sharp, nuanced performances. Plonka is tremendously likable and sympathetic as Andrew deals with his own fears and doubts. Kathleen Russell is amusing as the somewhat flaky Felicia, a real estate agent who converses with the dead. Russell’s New York accent is fabulously funny. Maureen Noel has a lot of fun as the elderly Lillian, who rekindles her long dormant romance with Barrymore. Bagley and Noel share a sweet scene together, which is one of the highlights of the play. Beltran provides a spot-on parody of the shallow and greedy Hollywood executive.

I Hate Hamlet is a solid entertainment that will bring some relief for the winter doldrums.

I Hate Hamlet runs through January 28. Arctic Playhouse. 117 Washington St. West Warwick. For tickets, call 401-573-3443.

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