The Unbearable Bardness of Being

I Hate Hamlet plays for laughs on the vices and virtues of selling out

Kim Ostrenko portrays Deirdre with a gawky, verging-on-homely charisma reminiscent of Shelley Duvall. She does a double take when she sees Andrew's well-endowed Hamlet in his tights, and she becomes flushed and flustered. Her humor is frank (she agrees with Andrew that his performance was horrible) and at times self-effacing (“Why don't I just get some help?” she asks, referring to her self-imposed virginity). As we saw recently in Praying with the Enemy, Ostrenko has a talent for comedy that moves the laughter from the heart to the brain and back again.

Luckily Wesley Stevens has performed Shakespeare, and it shows. He is given the meatier lines of the play and is confident in his role. From the get-go he makes a beeline to the bar, true to the character of Barrymore, an infamous drunk and prankster. The role seems to demand a little more physicality than Stevens gives, though. After all, he is playing one of the most flamboyant and boisterous actors of the Twentieth Century. But his arrogance and elegance are on the money. He also plays the gentler side of Barrymore as mentor well when sympathizing with Andrew's opening-night terror and, finally, when Andrew returns to report his flailing performance.

In the second half, the actors seem more sure of themselves. Andrew's relationships with Barrymore and Deirdre are more energetic. Also, the layering of additional text from Hamletwith a deepening of Andrew's relationship with Barrymore helps. Thematically speaking their dialogue never really transcends the back and forth of Andrew's “I'm not worthy” and Barrymore's “Make thyself worthy,” but the energy picks up between the two actors, intensifying their interactions. The same happens with Deirdre. When she finally acknowledges Andrews's horrible performance yet expresses her love for him eloquently and honestly, the audience can tell that she has worked through a crisis to reach some new understanding.

Heavy on the eyebrows, Wesley Stevens throws his weight around Mark Whittington
Heavy on the eyebrows, Wesley Stevens throws his weight around Mark Whittington

Details

Written by Paul Rudnick. Directed by Dan Kelley. Starring Mark Whittington, Wesley Stevens, Kim Ostrenko, Kelly Briscoe, Michael McKeever, and Harriet Oser.
Through August 27 at Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W Sample Rd, Coral Springs; 954-344-7765

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This is one of Whittington's finest moments. He narrates Andrew's floundering performance in such a straightforward way it has the humor of a drowning man laughing. He describes seeing a teenage boy in the audience squirming in his seat with boredom. Through this observation he reaches a point of freedom, realizes he is a lousy Hamlet, and actually delivers a moving “To be or not to be” soliloquy. For one moment he gains the awe of the teenage boy and the rest of the audience, and he decides that this moment is worth more than a six-figure Hollywood contract. Epiphanies such as this strike a real emotional chord, a nice complement to the lighthearted, sometimes bawdy humor. The guy's seen a ghost after all.

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