To be Hamlet or not to be Hamlet; that is the crucial question in “I Hate Hamlet,” the comedy onstage at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City through Nov. 11.
The play, written by Paul Rudnick, opened on Broadway in 1991 at the Walter Kerr Theater. It was inspired by real-life circumstances when the author answered an ad in the New York Times for a “medieval duplex.”
The show centers around Andrew Rally, a young actor who earned fame and fortune on a Hollywood television show. He is apprehensive about returning to New York to play Hamlet in the prestigious Central Park Shakespeare Festival.
His realtor, Felicia Dantine, has rented him an apartment which was once inhabited by John Barrymore, considered one of the greatest Hamlets of the 20th century. Barrymore’s ghost appears and offers guidance to Rally for the challenging role.
San Carlos resident Joseph Brady stars as Andrew. Brady feels that Andrew is struggling to be what he wants to be in the face of an easier and more glamorous life.
Brady says, “This play is about finding out what’s worthwhile, doing things that don’t have a monetary payoff. Andrew is considering giving up his famous celebrity role to be where no one really knows him, becoming involved, making a genuine connection with people. ‘To be or not to be,’ that is the question. Everyone has to go through this decision in his life. We all need to be who we are rather than the function you play in society.”
Making her first appearance at Hillbarn, Portola Valley resident Emily Greco plays Deirdre McDavey, Andrew’s girlfriend. She describes Deirdre as a romantically very naive person who believes the world is just wonderful and magical. Coming from a wealthy family, she doesn’t struggle much as a beginning actress.
Greco says, “I connect with her naivety. She experiences a genuine surprise to realize that life isn’t always the fairy tale you hoped it would be. I also agree with her views toward others to have hope and belief in happenings that are delightful. My biggest challenge is covering her emotional journey. Yet she turns out to be someone who inspires people to find thrills in everyday things, the simplicity of life.”
Craig C. Lewis of Portola Valley plays Barrymore.
He says, “Portraying Barrymore as instructor and a father figure, I recite Shakespeare, teach fencing, and bring romance, comedy and a serious side. It is very challenging to bring reality to my speeches and teach Andrew how to be Hamlet.”
The production staff includes director Hunt Burdick, scenic designer R. Dutch Fritz, costumer Mae Matos, light designer Don Coluzzi and choreographer Durand Garcia.
The theater is at 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd. Tickets are $17 to $28. Call (650) 349-6411 or visit www.hillbarntheatre.org.
Read all of Joan Gross' columns at Examiner.com.