Chevy Chase Players I Hate HamletBy Laura & Mike Clark • May 12th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Chevy Chase Players
Chevy Chase Community Center, Washington, DC
Through May 21st
2:15 with one intermission
$15/$13 Seniors and Students
Reviewed May 7th, 2011
I Hate Hamlet is a comedy in two acts by Paul Rudnick. A television actor comes to New York to perform in a Summer Shakespeare in the Park production of Hamlet. All seems fine except that Andrew does not like Hamlet. He is having a mid-career crisis and needs help from someone to kind of show him the way. Who shows up to get him in the spirit? None other than John Barrymore, the most famous Hamlet of all time.
Do not go to this show expecting a dry study of why Hamlet and Shakespeare are boring. Director Elizabeth Stone has managed to successfully combine the drama inherent in a mid-career crisis with the absurdity of dealing with a ghost. The first act was very funny as we are introduced to the characters (and these people are characters!). The second act gets bogged down a bit as the humor disappears as the real world intrudes, but in the end a nice balance is struck resulting in a satisfying show.
Josh Heard did a commendable job as television doctor turned Shakespearen actor Andrew Rally. Heard’s likable character was down to earth when needed, but also created some real over the top moments that were quite fun to watch. One such moment happened with girlfriend Deirdre McDavey played by Claire Bea as Rally attempted to seduce his girlfriend. Bea portrayed a sweet innocence that was refreshing to watch. She and Heard exhibited a real chemistry between the two of them that made them naturals on stage. Area directors should note that DC area newcomer Josh Heard will be much sought after for many parts, the flexibility and credibility he brought to Andrew Rally was remarkable.
Andrew’s agents were also well cast. There was the strict German New York agent Lillian Troy (Carole Preston) with a secret past. Andrew’s real estate broker Felicia Dantine (Joy Cecilly Gerst) who was eager to put him in the perfect house. Initally you’d think a real estate broker would be a throwaway role, but Gerst made it plausible as she met Rally’s friends and became part of his life. Her desire to experience some of the “wild side” of LA with Gary Peter Lefkowitz, Andrew’s writer/producer friend from Los Angeles. Lefkowitz, played by Zach Fithan, was smooth and shallow, with many of the evening’s best lines. However, he was fun to watch almost slither across the stage.
The final character of this group was the legendary John Barrymore (or at least his ghost) played by Christopher Schwartz. Tall and rail thin, Schwartz took command of the role and every scene he appeared in. His sweeping gestures and bravado were a joy to behold. His interactions with folk in his home who couldn’t see him were very well done. All the characters were well matched and made a solid team.
Carolinn Kuebler’s set was fairly basic, with a few pieces of furniture and a stairwell. Joe Grasso’s fight choreography of a sword fight was surprisingly realistic as we could hear the swoosh of the sabres as they cut the air. The costumes by Kate Smith-More were fitting without being too flashy.
A well staged, well-balanced, funny look at one man’s Shakespearean, and life, crisis.
In I Hate Hamlet, Paul Rudnick lightheartedly explores society’s attitudes towards Shakespeare, acting, and theatre. Having worked on over 20 Shakespearean productions myself, I can fully appreciate Rudnick’s artful skill in drawing the different personas of the theatrical world – from the unsure actor and the fanatical legend to the swooning romantic and the money-hungry producer. And while Rudnick deftly helps us understnd the unsympathetic attributes. This delicate balance is the thing I love most about I Hate Hamlet.
Thought I am a longtime lover and performer of classic farce, I was particularly struck by Rudnick’s dramatic conflict of artistic struggle. In the era of celebrity musicals, reality television, and mega-millions based on “demographic” appeal, Andrew Rally’s internal struggle between the fame of LA and the glory of Shakespeare is readily understandable.
As a young artist myself, I know that it is all too easy to wonder, “Which projects should I be pursuing? Which city has a niche for me? Which path should I take?” Rudnick pits the two sides against each other, not allowing for a clear-cut answer. As we think about our lives, our relationships, and our careers, one has to consider – with each choice, what is gained? What is lost? Can there ever be a happy ending? With Rudnick, you never know.
Welcome and enjoy the show. Elizabeth Stone
Photos provided by the Chevy Chase Players
- Andrew Rally: Josh Heard
- Felicia Dantine: Joy Cecilly Gerst
- Deirdre McDavey: Claire Bea
- Lillian Troy: Carole Preston
- John Barrymore: Christopher Schwartz
- Gary Peter Lefkowitz: Zach Fithian
- Producer: Jim Robertson
- Director: Elizabeth Stone
- Stage Manager: David Jung
- Set Design: Carolinn Kuebler
- Master Carpenter: John Vandegriff
- Set Construction & Painting: John Vandegriff, David Jung, Jim Robertson
- Set Decoration & Dressing: Carolinn Kuebler
- Light Design/Operation: Jim Robertson
- Sound Operation: Brian Turley
- Props: Lydia Tyburski
- Costumes: Kate Smith-More
- Fight Choreographer: Joe Grasso
- Program: Lennie Magida
- Box Office/Hospitality: Maria Raquel Ott, Mary Ann Robertson, Brenda Shaw, Joanne Young
Disclaimer: Chevy Chase Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6687.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.