Triangle audiences will love the Towne Players of Garner’s community-theater presentation of I Hate Hamlet, which resumes April 27-29 in the posh auditorium of North Garner Magnet Middle School. I Hate Hamlet is a ghost story with a delightful twist: a famous television star from Los Angeles named Andrew Rally (Rob Smith) is now living in New York City and preparing to play the title role in a Shakespeare-in-the-Park production of Hamlet. He rents a flat once inhabited by the late, great star of stage and screen John Barrymore (Chris Brown), and accidentally summons the ghost of The Great Profile during an ill-advised séance conducted by his wacky real-estate broker and would-be medium Felicia Dantine (Meg Dietrich).
Even before his encounter with the supernatural, Rally is wracked with doubt about his ability to play Hamlet. But Barrymore is confident that he can screw Rally’s courage to the sticking point, teach him everything he needs to get through this acting ordeal and, ultimately, initiate the former star of “L.A. Medical” hospital drama into the Brotherhood of Hamlets. Unfortunately, it will take more than one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of all time — and arguably the greatest American Hamlet of his generation — to help Rally successfully navigate this complicated role.
Rob Smith is highly amusing as the overstressed Andrew Rally, who is both jittery about his imminent debut as Hamlet in front of the merciless New York critics and increasingly frustrated that his actress-girlfriend Deidre McDavey (Maggie Cochran) keeps deflecting his amorous advances. Although he is a bit short to play opposite Smith and doesn’t strike the swashbuckling figure of the matinee idol that was John Barrymore, Chris Brown has the mellifluous voice and the comic timing and sense of style requisite for this role.
Meg Dietrich is hilarious as she hams it up as the wild-and-crazy gal that is Felicia, and Maggie Cochran is a bit tightly wound but still funny as Deidre, an air-headed actress saving herself for her wedding night. Marty Smith is a little stiff — and her accent is a little too affected — as Rally’s elderly agent Lillian Troy, a former German immigrant who once had a torrid one-night stand with Barrymore in this very penthouse apartment; but Robert Boland is a terrific as TV director Gary Peter Lefkowitz, who only comes to N.Y.C. in order to try to lure Andrew Rally back to L.A. and is a philistine as far as Hamlet is concerned.
Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt does a fine job of whipping these ingredients into a very enjoyable comic soufflé. The show’s unusually detailed set — co-designed by Honeycutt; her husband, technical director Scott Honeycutt; and Mike and Tammy O’Gorman — also adds an air of authenticity to the proceedings. And a good time was had by all at the company’s well-attended Saturday matinee.
The Towne Players of Garner present I Hate Hamlet Thursday-Saturday, April 27-29, at 8 p.m. at North Garner Magnet Middle School, 720 Powell Dr., Garner, North Carolina. $8 ($6 students and seniors). 919/779-6144. Towne Players of Garner: http://www.towneplayers.org/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=4597.