Monday, February 15, 2010

Hamlet, John Barrymore and Me

Posting here has been sporadic and may continue for a bit as a new task now underway is consuming much of my admittedly often distracted energy and time.

The task? I'm neck-deep in directing the comedy "I Hate Hamlet" by Paul Rudnick for the Morristown Theatre Guild as the first show of their 76th season. I have been most fortunate to work with this group of very talented volunteers for many years and this is a show I have been aching to direct some time.

The show opens for six performances only on March 5-7 and the following weekend, March 12-14 at Perk Prater Hall at Rose Center in Morristown and you can order tickets and make reservations right now at the Morristown Theatre Guild website or at Lakeway Tickets.

The show is a machine-gun blast of rapid-fire laughs, one of the funniest scripts I've ever read. The story centers on a famous TV actor named Andrew who is attempting to play the role of Hamlet in New York City, the Holy Grail for actors. However, he's totally terrified and his real estate agent is eager to get him into a very unusual apartment -- a vast space which was once the home of the legendary actor John Barrymore.

On a whim, Andrew and his friends hold a seance to contact Barrymore. And before Andrew can race back to Hollywood and television fame, the ghost of Barrymore does arrive with a single goal: to help Andrew perform one of the most demanding and challenging roles ever written. Still, Andrew refuses until Barrymore also admits that he can help Andrew resolve another problem which is haunting him -- the successful romancing of his girlfriend Deirdre.

Ah, but performing Shakespeare is never simple or easy. As Rudnick writes it, Shakespeare is like "algebra on stage". And just what the heck is a "fardle" anyway??

As Andrew ponders the challenge of creating capital-A "Art", his producer friend Gary from Hollywood reminds him that one does not "do" Art, one "buys" Art with cash earned from doing cheesy TV shows and commercials.

And of course the one thing tougher than Shakespeare is Love.

So it seems that John Barrymore is in fact the coach he truly needs.

For me, digging into the world and the words of Shakespeare and Barrymore is immensely rewarding. I've been a Barrymore fan for some years but I moved from being just a fan to being truly impressed by the man after I saw Barrymore's version of "Moby Dick". In his version of the story, Barrymore plays Captain Ahab, but he is not some demented figure chasing the white whale. He's a lovable scamp who not only kills the whale but returns home by the end to marry his sweetheart.

And yet, for all the history of this actor and the challenge of Hamlet, the play "I Hate Hamlet" never gets bogged down - the laughs and the comedy play fast and furious and the show is great fun for the actors and the audience as well.

The cast:
Robbie Poteete - Andrew
Gislea Eikey - Felicia
Autumn Leming - Deirdre
Kay Flockhart - Lillian
Logan Propst - Gary
John Carpenter - John Barrymore

So ... the work is keeping me very busy and posting is likely to continue to be hit and miss. And you, dear readers, are most cordially invited to attend the show. I'll have some pictures to show off soon (I hope). For now, an image of Barrymore from his 1922 performance as Hamlet. And as Barrymore once said:

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."


  1. Anonymous12:48 PM

    You forgot to mention that Gisela Eikey will be gracing the stage in this show after an 8 year absence from the theatre. Oh! That would be ME!

    Didn't know you had a blog. Sure have missed the old Cup of Joe show on the radio. Those idiots that bought the station didn't know what gold they had with you when they cleaned house.

    So you just moved on to a more global venue. Good for you!


  2. Anonymous9:36 PM

    I am sure yiou know that today is John Barrymore's birthday. Great post, break a leg.

  3. well John B must have known as he made sure i made mention of him on his birthday!!!!
    ghostly suggestions indeed