The Ghost of John Barrymore Appears at Antrim Playhouse; “I Hate Hamlet” Brings A Touch Of Shakespeare To Wesley Hills

BY GEORGE J. DACRE

“I Hate Hamlet,” the opener for Antrim Playhouse’s 76th season, is another winner for one of Rockland County’s top community theaters.

Set entirely in the top floor apartment of a Brownstone just off Washington Square in New York City in the late 1980s, the play features a fine cast including Dale O’Dell as Andrew Rally (who hates Hamlet) and Amada Vogt as Rally’s love, Deidre McDavey. Brian King’s performance as the ghost of famous Hamlet actor John Barrymore is uncanny both in looks and mannerisms.

Author Paul Rudnick was inspired to write “I Hate Hamlet” while living in an apartment that was once John Barrymore’s home. As director Susan Binder writes in the playbill, while the play is a comedy, it also “speaks to the struggle for many actors between serious art and pop culture; glory over wealth and the terrifying thought on opening night of having bitten off more than you can chew.”

This is what Andrew Rally faces as Hamlet, and when Barrymore appears to him and some others in the cast, there ensues great dialogue and some wonderful acting by King and O’Dell. Barrymore tries to convince the young actor that playing Hamlet is the thing to do and Rally resists.

But Barrymore gets a lot of help from Deidre McDavey, who swoons when she thinks of Barrymore, and wants Rally to play the part. She even dresses up as Ophelia to convince her lover he can do it. But Rally is tormented and when his agent Gary Peter Lefkowitz enters the picture, played by actor Joe Stern, it all gets very interesting and funny.

Stern brings in a $3 million dollar show offer to Rally which is hard to resist. You have to see how this all plays out to enjoy it as much as I did on opening night last Friday.

Add in Mary O’Connor as Lillian Troy, who once met the live Barrymore in the apartment, and Samantha Feig as Felcia Dantine, a friend of Deidre’s, and you have a mix of good acting, comedy and stage dramatics that makes “I Hate Hamlet ” a winner.

Binder has done a great job of directing this classic comedy with help from her assistant Mary Laido. Bill Nicholson, with another great job of set construction, and stage manager Kim Farewell, kept the scenes moving along well with the changes that were necessary. Set design, decoration and costumes by Aimee McClean were right on target and lighting and sound by Susan Binder are up to Antrim’s usual high standards.

Catch “I Hate Hamlet” at Antrim Playhouse this month, weekends through September 30 and you’ll see why I rate it Three Out of Four Stars.