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I Hate Hamlet

a Comedy
by Paul Rudnick

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 4561

SHOWING : March 13, 2014 - March 30, 2014



A new city, a new big city apartment, a career in limbo, the ghost of John Barrymore and an unexpected job offer - this wildly funny duel over women, art & duty will leave you smiling long after the curtain closes.

Director Tom Thon
Andrew Davin Allen Grindstaff
Felicia Madeline Hatter
Dierdre Chloe James
Gary Sayyed Shabazz
Lillian Peg Thon
John Barrymore Mike Yow
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I Have Conflicted Feelings about Hamlet
by playgoer
Monday, March 31, 2014
I expected to like "I Hate Hamlet" more than I did in Lionheart Theatre Company’s production. Paul Rudnick’s script sounded like fun, with the ghost of John Barrymore coaching a TV actor in the role of Hamlet. Add in a girlfriend who has mastered the word "no," a psychic real estate agent, a slick Hollywood agent, and a German theatrical agent with a past tie to Barrymore, and the ingredients seem to be there for a rollicking comedy. The trouble is, the ingredients didn’t blend for me in this production. It’s like a fallen soufflé that was intended to be light and delightful, and just wasn’t.

I can’t blame the overall direction of Tom Thon for the failures of the production. The blocking is good, and there’s nice shading of characterizations. Part of the problem seems to have been in the casting of the show. The skill level of all the actors isn’t up to the level of the direction. Everyone tries hard, but you can see the effort in some of the performances.

Madeline Hatter has a great look and style for real estate agent Felicia, but her New York accent seems a little iffy, and I didn’t quite buy her as inherently possessing the outsized personality she was putting on. Sayyed Shabazz, as Hollywood agent Gary, seems to possess the power and verve his character needs, but I didn’t buy him as a successful show biz type. Chloe James, as girlfriend Dierdre, was flighty and sweet, but I couldn’t see her as an actress with ambitions to be Ophelia. The depth and drive just didn’t seem to be there, and there wasn’t much romantic chemistry.

There are some fine performances too. Peg Thon is pitch-perfect as Lillian, with a radiant smile that lights the stage and a wonderful German accent. Mike Yow is virile and strong as Barrymore, keeping the action driving along whenever he is onstage. Davin Allen Grindstaff is terrific in the lead role of Andrew, with his expressive face and body telegraphing each moment of his journey. He has the lithe body and memorable looks that would befit a TV star. His sword fight with Mike Yow is one of the highlights of the production.

The biggest problem in the show, for me, is the script. Act one occurs on the day of Andrew’s arrival in his New York apartment rental, in preparation for playing Hamlet in Central Park. Act two occurs on the night of the show’s premiere. It’s as if act one is all exposition and act two is all aftermath, with the most interesting parts left out. It’s mildly entertaining, but not the pointed, non-stop comedy I was expecting.

Technical attributes of the show are good. Rick Thompson’s multi-level set is attractive and functional, although the passageway to the kitchen being right next to the front door doesn’t necessarily make architectural sense. Scott Gassman’s props dress the stage nicely, and Linda Hughes costumes dress the actors very nicely. Sound (Bob Peterson, Tom Thon) and lighting (Gary White) accomplish all that the script requires.

Lionheart’s "I Hate Hamlet" is one of those shows that is almost there, but doesn’t quite make it. I was rooting for it to come together, but the script really didn’t allow that for me. I left with the feeling that I had had an appetizer, a dessert (which Lionheart serves at intermission), and a non-alcoholic after-dinner drink. Enjoyable in the right company, but not particularly satisfying or filling. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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