By Paul Love, guest writer
Real estate agents will tell you that the three most important factors with acquiring property are location, location, location. But award-winning screenwriter and playwright Paul Rudnick, might also add that the right piece of property can inspire a very funny play. Such was the case in the late ’80s when Rudnick moved into a New York brownstone that was once the home of legendary actor John Barrymore. The whole idea of Barrymore previously inhabiting his new living space inspired Rudnick to write I Hate Hamlet, which opened on Broadway in 1991, and is currently being staged by the Scarborough Players at the Scarborough Village Theatre.
The show opens with young it-boy actor Andrew Rally anxiously checking out his new apartment that we soon discover belonged to the great John Barrymore. Hot off a popular TV series, Andrew has agreed to take on that most coveted of roles — Hamlet — in a Shakespeare in the Park production. It’s a chance for him to grow as an actor, to develop his art. But he’s not sure he wants to do it, despite the encouragement from his over-excited girlfriend, Deirdre, his enthusiastic real estate agent, Felicia, and his agent, Lillian. It is the ghost of Barrymore himself, however, who is sent back to Earth with the task of convincing Andrew. Can Andrew embrace his art and become the Hamlet that everybody needs him to be? Or will he toss it aside for the fame and fortune offered by his Hollywood producer friend, Gary, in the form of a new TV show that offers his artistic sensibilities nothing, but promises a big, fat paycheque? I Hate Hamlet delightfully skewers everything from Shakespeare to dinner theatre, and Hollywood to television.
Evan Walsh embodies Andrew nicely, handily portraying the confusion and frustration of his character. He has a knack for physicality, as seen in his wonderfully funny facial contortions and in his swordplay abilities.
Meg Gibson is hilariously sparkling and bubbly as real estate agent Felicia. The way her boundless energy carries her around the stage holds the audience’s attention, and the way she wraps her solid New York accent deliciously around her dialogue makes her a joy to listen to, like when she turns “Barrymore” into a five-syllable word.
Despite occasional volume issues, Meghan Fowler is delightful as Andrew’s enthusiastic and supportive girlfriend, Deirdre, a role which requires constant high energy from the actor, which Ms. Fowler pulls off. It is a character that, if mishandled, would become grating, but Ms. Fowler never makes that mistake, maintaining a character who is wonderfully innocent and earnest.
Erin Jones effectively plays a character much older than herself, Andrew’s agent, Lillian, with a sharp air of wisdom and with a great stage cough that is almost its own character.
Daryn DeWalt is hilarious as Andrew’s fast-talking Hollywood friend Gary Peter Lefkowitz. He loves to share his opinion on everything, and it’s great when he does; his character has some of the funniest dialogue in the play. Mr. DeWalt’s comedic sensibilities really shine in the moments when he and Ms. Gibson get to interact, for, when they do, sparks fly and laughter follows.
Portraying an icon such as John Barrymore is no small task, but Chris Irving is more than up to the task with his luxurious, suave, and witty performance. He is silky-smooth with charm, and his fourth-wall-breaching mugs for the audience are appropriately over-the-top and too funny for words.
Director Harvey Levkoe keeps the action moving along at a comfortable pace, with the actors moving about with purpose, and the proceedings never feeling bogged down or dragged out.
If you feel like watching a well-performed production that will make you laugh, head to the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road, to see Scarborough Players’ production of I Hate Hamlet while it’s still on. Remaining performances are June 8, 9, 14, and 15 at 8 pm, and June 10 and 16 at 2 pm. Tickets are available at the door or visit theatrescarborough.com.