I Hate Hamlet – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

When successful Los Angeles television star Andrew Rally moves to New York City on a whim, settling into an apartment previously owned by the grand theatrical force John Barrymore, strange things start happening. Playwright Paul Rudnick has conjured up a particularly clever premise in his comedy offering “I Hate Hamlet” gracing the stage of Music Theatre of Connecticut until Sunday, February 19 and this talented cast takes that premise and runs for the finish line. 

Andrew clearly has a comfort zone. Playing a doctor on a television series is an easy fix, but when he gets to the Big Apple he is offered the starring role in Shakespeare’s classic tragedy playing Hamlet in the Park. After he accepts the challenge, he changes his mind and wants to back out. Constantine Pappas’s Andrew has a Greek chorus of voices urging him to say yes or to say no. He plays conflicted very well as his girlfriend Deirdre (Elena Ramos Pascullo) can’t wait for him to tread the boards as does his psychic realtor Felicia (Liliane Klein). His agent Lillian (Jo Anne Paradyl) is all for his donning tights and wielding a sword.

Pushing him to go in the opposite direction is his over-the-top friend Gary (Robert Anthony Jones) who has decidedly other plans: a lucrative television season of 24 episodes, on a new show “Night School,” dangling a paycheck in the millions. As Andrew agonizes over his decision, he receives a powerful push from the undisputed star of the Shakespeare sphere: John Barrymore’s ghost. Dan O’Driscoll is persuasive and potent as the master manipulator who wants to inspire the reluctant protagonist to strike a victory for the Bard.

Using encouraging arguments and dramatic swordplay, the legendary star challenges him to take a risk, with full support from the spiritual world, of course. Can the sweet Prince of Denmark be convinced to trust his own acting chops? Will Deirdre provide physical confirmation of her faith? Will Gary use greed to convince him to forsake glory for the lure of the almighty dollar? Kevin Connors directs this duel of desires on a tasteful penthouse set conceived by Sean Stanford, with effective lighting by RJ Romeo.

For tickets ($45-65), call Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue (Route One) Norwalk at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Masks will be required at the performances February 10 at 8 p.m. and February 18 at 2 p.m. Please note that Giving Day 2023 in Fairfield County is Thursday, February 23 and MTC welcomes your financial support.

Let one of the greatest Hamlets of all time, even if he is often in his cups, try to convince one of the newest actors on the scene to rise to the occasion and fortify his backbone to take that great leap of faith that spells stardom.