REVIEW: I Hate Hamlet (Big Noise Theatre)

Barrymore’s ghost walks through ‘I Hate Hamlet’

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Big Noise Theatre Company presents:

I Hate Hamlet

By Paul Rudnick
Directed by
Craig Gustafson
at
Prairie Lakes Theater, Des Plaines
Through Feb. 7 (ticket info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

Fluffy as cotton candy, Paul Rudnick‘s 1991 screwball comedy, I Hate Hamlet, numbers among those navel-gazing theatrical-themed plays that theater people always find enchanting. In this case, they’re right: Full of witty one-liners and ridiculous absurdities, this is a very silly, but very funny play.

hamlet14 Inspired when Rudnick lived in a New York apartment that had been home to famed actor John Barrymore (1882–1942), the comedy, currently in production by Big Noise Theatre in Des Plaines, follows up-and-coming TV-star Andrew Rally (the boyishly handsome Mark Mocarski), who moves to New York from L.A. when his hit medical series is cancelled. His elderly agent (Aimee Kennedy) has convinced him to give the stage a try, and although he remains ambivalent about both his desire and his ability to play the role, he’s been cast as Hamlet at Shakespeare in the Park.

Meanwhile, his real-estate broker, Felicia (Terre Virgilio), who sidelines as a medium, sells him the late Barrymore’s New York digs, with — you guessed it — the ghost of the stage and screen legend — dressed for his most famous role — in residence. Although the living Barrymore deserted the Shakespearean stage for Hollywood, his shade (Rob Nowak) is determined to turn the diffident Andrew into an accomplished Hamlet.

That’s not the absurd part.

Andrew’s ditzy, deeply romantic girlfriend, Deirdre (Julie Bayer), is thrilled that he’s playing the sweet Danish prince, giving him hope that she’ll end their long celibacy. A 29-year-old virgin, Deirdre’s been putting off the infatuated and importunate Andrew’s propositions and proposals for years, waiting to feel that the time and the man are perfect. On the other hand, Andrew’s pal Gary (Aaron G. Stash), a fast-talking, quintessential hyphenated Hollywood writer-director-producer, is trying to lure the actor back to L.A. with a high-paying contract for the pilot of a lame new sitcom.

If you can believe in a chastely monogamous TV actor who turns down lucrative roles, you might as well believe in ghosts.

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As the ghost, Nowak brings the swashbuckling Barrymore to booming life. By far the strongest actor in this uneven production, Nowak all but carries the show, overcoming an awful wig, legs that cry out for padded tights and the faltering delivery of castmates. Bayer, suitably flaky as Deirdre, and Stash, expansive and frenetic as the big-talking Gary, also turn in respectable performances.

Director Craig Gustafson has not been able to coax fast-paced dialog from his cast, and poor timing often puts a drag on what ought to be glib exchanges, making some of Andrew’s self-criticisms ring painfully true. Still, with Nowak’s Barrymore and colorful touches such as Teresa Kerrigan‘s flamboyant costuming of Felicia, this good-hearted production captures the overall silliness of the script.

Rating: ★★

 

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REVIEW: The True Story of the 3 Pigs (Emerald City Theatre)

Hamming it up for the over 5 set!

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Emerald City Theatre presents:

The True Story of the Three Pigs

By Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Adapted by Alyn Cardarelli
Directed by Ernie Nolan
Thru March 25th (ticket info)

By Katy Walsh

Joe Goldammer (little pig) with Ruby Aufmann The media investigates a double ham-icide. Emerald City Theatre presents The True Story of the Three Pigs. The play starts where the three pigs fairytale ends. Two pigs are dead. The wolf is in jail. Random Adjective, a reporter, has been assigned to examine the evidence. The audience is invited to accompany her as greenhorn reporters. Her investigation leads to interviews with the surviving pig, Red Riding Hood, and the wolf. The True Story of the Three Pigs is an interactive play that teaches children that there are many sides to a story and to always cover your mouth when you sneeze.

Joe Goldammer uses distinctive voices to play multiple roles: a high pitch squeak for the surviving pig, garble growls for nana wolf, and portrays Red Riding Hood as a German research expert on wolves. Although entertaining for adults, Goldammer’s best comedic moments may be lost on the little ones. Samantha Nicodemus plays Random Adjective as a fast talking reporter from the 1940’s. Nicodemus does a great job of keeping the kids connected to what’s happening by reviewing the evidence after each interview. Matt Olson is the Big Bad Wolf or Alexander T. Wolf. In two of the crime reenactments, Olson is the stereotyped Big Bad Wolf. However, when Alexander T. Wolf gets to tell his version of the story, he is a vulnerable, misunderstood wolf with allergies. Ernie Nolan  directs the action and keeps the cast animated with exaggerated gestures to elicit giggles.

pigs2It’s obvious upon entering the Apollo Theatre that Emerald City Theatre loves kids! They keep the 60-minute show interactive. Kids volunteer to come up on stage to verify huff puff results or model reporter moxie. After each interview, the audience members (i.e., greenhorn reporters) are invited to ask questions and assess the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, when, where, why and how). The repetitive nature of the reenactments help the younger audience members follow the story. Emerald City also adds to the children’s theatrical experience by providing coordinating gifts and games, pre-show pig-snout-making activity and post-show autographs with the cast. The kids even decide one of three endings. Applause determines what the newspaper headline will be. (for the opening performance the greenhorn reporters voted that the wolf was actually innocent)

The show promotes its target audience as 3-8 years old. Observing the children in the audience, a 5 years-or-over rating seems more realistic. Newspaper reporter, ham on a platter, German scientist – the story has some complicated elements to follow. Although the cast has colorful costumes (Ernie Nolan), the minimal scenery isn’t visually exciting. Unable to follow the story and without colorful stimulation, the pre-schoolers may become victim to the paparazzi. They don’t care about the truth! They want the three pigs fairytale.

Rating: ★★★

Helpful links:

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Matt Olson as the Big Bad Wolf (aka Alexander T. Wolf) greets greenhorn reporters Max and Ruby after the performance.


Creative team includes: Nic Jones (lighting), Joe Court (sound), Jenny Pinson (props), Joshua Lansing (technical director) and Scott Deter (stage manager)