Harper Makowsky ‘14, in her first head directorial gig, assembled the dynamic cast that produced basically 105 straight minutes of bawling in ETB’s production of I Hate Hamlet, a 90s work by American playwright Paul Rudnick that ran last week in Little Norse.
The play centers of Andrew Rally (Max Henkel ’14), who, after arriving in the Big Apple to learn the role of Hamlet, finds himself in a flat that once belonged to legendary actor John Barrymore (Frederick Stein ’14).
Just as Rally is about to give up the challenge of playing the Prince of Denmark, Barrymore’s ghost returns to whip Rally into shape (as well as drink his beer and canoodle with his women).
Turns out the real and fictional Barrymore (yes, the grandfather of Drew Barrymore) is a fascinating character. Wikipedia reports his final words as, “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.” Stein magnificently captured this panache. And in an attempt to show Rally how one ought to pronounce Shakespearean language, Stein absolutely nailed the “Speak the speech” speech borrowed from Hamlet.
When he wasn’t talking, Stein’s smirks, sly glances and, yes, impressive tights added volume to each scene.
Henkel provided the play’s few moments of seriousness, acting as a somewhat stable foil to the other characters’ lunacy. Henkel had his share of great lines too, many of which revolved around trying to coax his girlfriend into having sex with him. Emily Shack ’15 was fantastic as this swooning, stary-eyed and – alas poor Andrew – virginal Deirdre who eventually is won over after witnessing the courage with which Rally bombs Hamlet’s premier.
Nikhil Pandey ‘15 brought instant energy as an exuberant bro named Gary, a Guildencranz-like character who tries to distract Rally from the theater by luring him into a Hollywood TV-pilot about a superhero teacher (“You don’t do art, you buy it,” he reminds Rally at one point).
Veronica Garcia ‘16 dons a hilarious German accent as Rally’s agent Lillian, and Berett Wilber ’14’s stint as Rally’s séance-performing real estate broker Felicia was likewise well-executed.
If something felt vaguely familiar about the show it was that this play was the third Little Norse show this year centered about sexual frustration in a New York City apartment building.
Yet whereas the sense of desperation in I Hate Hamlet was never as potent as it was in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and Last of the Red Hot Lovers, this wasn’t what this show was about. The play was shameless, hilarious comedy from start to finish. One could always be assured that at the end of every bit of tension playwright Paul Rudnick was waiting with another memorable pun, one-liner or bit of wit.
Certainly one would never mistake playwright Rudnick for a Shakespeare; if the Bard’s plays are “algebra on stage,” I Hate Hamlet is baby Stats (its appropriation of the original Hamlet is pretty superficial and the play often resembles the sort of TV sit-com it makes fun of). But again, it’s not trying to be anything more than pure comedy, and with this in mind it delivered a great light-hearted spectacle a propos of the end of spring term.
This weekend, don’t forget to come up to Little Norse to see Holly Abel ’13 direct the Sarah Ruhl play Dead Man’s Cell Phone.