Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 29, 2016

I Hate Hamlet

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford CT
through March 13, 2016
by Barbara Stroup

Photo By Rich wagner
Springfield area theatergoers would be well advised to discover the treasures presented at Playhouse on Park, a mere 30-minute drive away, but light years closer to Broadway standards, where this play was first presented. Following Park’s success of “The Chosen,” a serious drama, this young and vibrant theatre presents the comedy “I Hate Hamlet.”

The play is superficially focused on the career of Andrew, who is both new to the city and to an apartment previously owned by a famed Hamlet actOR. John Barrymore’s ghost does not hesitate to appear when summoned by a frivolous séance led by Andrew’s real estate agent, Felicia. Outrageously garbed and speaking with exaggerated Brooklyn style, Julia Hochner does a fine comedic job in the role.

Ownership of the stage (and the entire play), however, goes to Ezra Barnes as Barrymore. His interpretation is perfection – just grand and sweeping enough, with the right amount of schmaltz or tender sensitivity when needed, as he expounds on his life and its failures, his acting, the craft, the stage, and on art itself. It is a role that could make a buffoon of the Barrymore ghost character; Barnes saves that from happening. He is so appealing that some audience members would be happy to watch him just pushing a cart down a grocery store aisle.

Barnes gets serious competition, however, from David Lanson (as Andrew’s Hollywood-style pal) who even received spontaneous applause after his appearance in Act I – this actor knows how to build a character quickly. As Andrew’s fiancé Deirdre, Susan Slotoroff is engaging and almost always in motion, sometimes distractingly so.

The set is a bit confusing: draping is overdone, the table is mundane, and if Andy likes modern, why did he decorate in Victorian style? Some reflectors on the white lamps might help to reduce the brightness shining into eyes on the far side of the theatre.

“I Hate Hamlet” is a well-written play by an expert playwright; direction in this production is tight with taut pacing. This presentation goes down as another success by Playhouse on Park.