Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: (Ottawa) I Hate Hamlet

A Night of Ghosts and Traditions
by Jim Murchison
This is my first review at the Ottawa Little Theatre so that, in itself, warrants a few words. There are few theatres these days that have the sense of long time tradition that you feel when you enter the Ottawa Little Theatre, mainly because most theatres are too young. Photos of past portrayals shot in the 1930’s by Yousuf Karsh adorn the downstairs lobby. Résumé pictures of alumnae such as Dan Akroyd and Rich Little wrap the walls in the upstairs lobby. 
Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet is a little play about challenges and characters that are larger than life.

There are people who rarely go to productions of Ottawa’s professional companies that have been subscribers to OLT for years. The plays begin with Oh Canada. The stage has the Proscenium arch and curtain of the traditional theatre. The original structure burnt down 40 years ago but its legacy never got singed. OLT may not be in the original building, but its traditions continue to burn brightly and its ghosts still dwell there as well. Much about the Ottawa Little Theatre is very large.

Paul Rudnick’s I Hate Hamlet is a little play about challenges and characters that are larger than life. Set in a Brownstone Flat in Greenwich Village in 1987, it examines in a very good natured and light hearted way, the importance of facing our fears, accepting challenges and living with our ghosts. 
Our hero, Andrew Rally (Michael McSheffrey) is a successful television actor in a Hospital drama, but he is at a crossroads since the show has been cancelled and the future scares him. Everyone he is close to is bullying him in one way or another. His real estate agent Felicia (Cathy Nobleman) badgers him into taking an apartment. His theatre agent Lillian (Ann Scholberg) pushes him into taking the role of Hamlet and his rich, chaste girlfriend Deirdre (Julie Horne) bribes him with her own virtue into taking himself seriously.
The rock solid anchor of the play is Eric Ladd.

.Even with all this pressure to be a serious actor, he would likely walk away from it all for the lure and lucre of TV were it not for one thing: His roommate is the ghost of John Barrymore (Eric Ladd). If Barrymore is the god that guides Rally into the light, then his friend Gary Peter Lefkowitz (Josh Sparks) is the serpent tempting him with the apple of Television. 
I Hate Hamlet is a crowd pleaser with lots of great one-liners and some terrific sight gags well directed by Sarah Hearn. The set is a medieval castle\apartment designed by Robin Riddihough which works wonderfully well. It is lit by David Magaldry boldly and brightly when needed or with a ghostly ambient glow when the mood becomes more intimate.
The cast is good too. Cathy Nobleton plays the realtor with a brash New York pushiness. Julie Horne as the girlfriend has both wide eyed, bouncy exuberance and wistful naivety in balance. Ann Scholberg hacks and coughs her chain smoking theatrical agent through her wisecracks and reminiscences of her full life. Josh Sparks is a writer/producer/director with a sleazy, fixation on a big pay day and little else.
Michael McSheffrey is appropriately awkward and unsure of himself. He reads Hamlet with a stilted false bravado except for the fleeting moment he truly finds the character, when words easily flow from his lips and we all understand the profound beauty of Shakespeare’s poetry.
The rock solid anchor of the play is Eric Ladd. As Barrymore’s ghost he moves confidently across the stage, his profile never finding anything but the perfect light. His voice is powerfully theatrical but always human. His sword is an extension of his hand and he doesn’t sit in a sofa; he becomes a part of it.
It is a well spent two hours in the theatre that everyone can relate to, because it is more than a play about acting. It is about fears, regrets, triumphs and dreams. Success comes not from victory, but merely accepting the challenge and learning the lessons from the attempt.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.