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Strong cast featured in Coach House’s ‘I Hate Hamlet’

10/4/2012 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Daren Kelly, at left, and Joe Pine share a scene in Coach House Theatre’s production of “I Hate Hamlet.”
Photo courtesy of Coach House Theatre
WEST AKRON — A good, long laugh has the power to lift the spirits and let us know we’ve had a good evening in the theater. 

Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet” fulfills the promise of comedy and laughter in Akron’s Coach House Theatre. Rudnick wrote an intriguing story in “I Hate Hamlet.”

The “I Hate Hamlet” story is about Andrew Rally (Joe Pine), who is known for playing a surgeon on a TV series. Andrew, who has been cast as Hamlet in a Shakespeare in the Park production, moves to New York City and rents an apartment that was once occupied by John Barrymore. Barrymore, of the famous acting clan, played Hamlet on Broadway for 101 performances. He played the role for one performance more than Edwin Booth in order to hold the record.

As the play opens, Andrew is introduced to his new apartment by his real estate agent, Felicia (Holly Humes). They are quickly joined by Andrew’s girlfriend, Deirdre (Tess Burgler), and his agent, Lillian (Dede Klein). Felicia proposes a séance in order to evoke the ghost of Barrymore. Lightning flashes and thunder rolls, but, no Barrymore.

When Andrew is at last alone, the ghost of Barrymore (Daren Kelly) appears and becomes Andrew’s life coach. The ghost directs Andrew in how to play Hamlet and how to seduce his girlfriend.

Rudnick is at his best in the writing of “I Hate Hamlet.” He wrote sharp, crisp lines that move the action forward and generate plenty of laughs from the audience. Occasionally, Rudnick changes the pace and permits Barrymore and Rally to recite speeches from “Hamlet.” The marriage of the lines from a comedy and a tragedy give Kelly and Pine an opportunity to display their considerable talents. Kelly has a strong voice that can melt to a whisper and still be heard in the back row. Pine is capable of vocal gymnastics and of playing physical comedy. Each is perfect for these demanding roles.

Burgler plays the ingénue in a long, blonde wig that should remind audiences of the ingénues from early TV and film.

Klein makes the German agent a flirtatious theatrical dictator. Klein is at the top of her comedic powers in this show. As she prepares to attend the opening night performance of “Hamlet,” Klein makes an entrance in a shimmering gold gown that makes her look stunning.

Scott Shriner, as a fast-talking TV producer, tempts Andrew with a job offer that even Barrymore thinks he should accept. Shriner plays the Los Angeles character in a style that is in sharp contrast to the New York pattern and, yet, is entirely appropriate for his character.

Director Nancy Cates keeps the action moving at a brisk pace and helped each actor develop a distinctive character. She has directed this script before and is comfortable with the script, cast and set.

This strong cast is equally balanced, without a weak link. This is Coach House at the peak of its powers, with a production that shouldn’t be missed.

“I Hate Hamlet” runs through Oct. 14. For tickets, call 330-434-7741.

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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