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THEATER REVIEW: “I Hate Hamlet”

Andrew Rally (Francis Gercke) is no Barrymore, as he’ll be the first to point out. He is, in fact, a TV actor, star of the late “L.A. Medical” series, in New York for the summer and rethinking his agreement to play Hamlet in the annual Shakespeare in Central Park series.

His real estate agent Felicia (Gerilyn Brault), a loud-mouthed New York lady with Definite Ideas about everything, is showing him a Manhattan apartment that was once occupied by no less than the redoubtable John Barrymore, a Hamlet of no small repute in his time.

Andrew is dubious – “I was expecting … less,” he says of the relatively palatial penthouse digs – and in fact isn’t at all convinced that he even wants to play Hamlet – but is sufficiently wishy-washy to be influenced by others, most especially girlfriend Deirdre (Brooke McCormick Paul), and agrees to at least move in.

When Felicia finds out she’s renting to another Hamlet, she unleashes her inner medium and calls on the spirit of the old boozer to return.

Deirdre is a case unto herself – blonde, easily impressed and up for anything except making the decision whether or not to marry Andrew. But when she hears about Barrymore, she can’t wait.

Wouldn’t you know it, Barrymore shows up – resplendent in tights, velveteen tunic over white shirt. And Ruff Yeager plays that commanding Barrymore voice, attitude and demeanor for all it’s worth, making Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s “I Hate Hamlet” one of the funniest shows of the year.

Can a TV actor rise to the exalted status of a Hamlet with coaching from an expert like Barrymore? Or will Andy succumb to friend Gary (Tom Stephenson), who dangles a new TV series before him, promising lots of moola?

Rest assured, it’s not the answer that matters. It’s the cleverness of Paul Rudnick’s script, the spot-on portrayals of this superb cast and Christopher Williams’ fine direction that make this show sing.

Credit Kristin McReddie, Curtis Mueller and Matt Lescault-Wood for valuable contributions in costumes, lighting and sound, respectively.

This show uses a smaller, box-like studio space configured in the round, with the audience ranged on chairs and couches on four sides around the central playing area.

Intrepid, known for the Bard’s works, is pairing “I Hate Hamlet” with Shakespeare’s comic “Much Ado About Nothing” (opening next) for a season of comedy. Given Intrepid’s proven track record with Shakespeare, this should be a socko summer of theater in Encinitas.

The details

Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s production of “I Hate Hamlet” plays through July 19 at the San Dieguito Academy, 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

Tickets: (800) 718-4253 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.