The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title I Hate Hamlet
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show June 6 - July 12, 2015
Reviewer Gerry Camp
Review For those of us who love live theatre, it is a rare experience to see a performance one could begin to describe as “perfect.” Sutter Street Theatre’s current show, Paul Rudnick’s “I Hate Hamlet,” comes as close as anything I have seen in recent months.

Credit for the near perfection of this show rests largely on the shoulders of director Blake Flores. Of course the hilarious script by Rudnick deserves part of the praise, but without the perfect cast the play might seem like a somewhat more literate Neil Simon clone. This show is more than that.

The play’s hero is television actor Andrew Rally, whose latest series has been cancelled. Moving to New York to experience stage acting, he acquires an apartment once occupied by John Barrymore. To the ecstatic delight of his determinedly virginal girlfriend, he has landed the role of Hamlet in a Shakespeare-in-the Park production. But Andrew is terrified of the role. If only Barrymore, one of the great Hamlets, could give him some pointers.

Andrew’s real estate agent Felicia is a part-time medium, and conducts a séance to recruit the actor, reaching her deceased mother who treats the contact as an overdue phone call. Soon, however, the ghost of Barrymore makes his appearance and says he cannot return to the spirit world until Andrew, who is increasingly reluctant, performs Hamlet.

Presumably Flores, the director, was responsible for casting. Anthony Raddigan, with his matinee-idol face, is perfect as the reluctant Hamlet, but Rob Odehnal steals the show as the ghost of Barrymore. Both actors never let the audience doubt they are the characters they are portraying. And their practice duel which ends Act One has been choreographed so effectively by Dian Hoel that it seems spontaneous and almost life-threatening.

It would be hard to imagine a better Barrymore than Odehnal. His costume, featuring an overstuffed red codpiece, and his sexy nonchalance are what stage acting is all about—outlandish but always believable.

Vanessa Voetsch as the exuberant, slightly ditzy girl friend, who keeps Andrew in a constant state of sexual tension, is lively and charming. Daniel Jones, as Andrew’s television producer, trying to lure him away from Hamlet (“algebra on stage”) and into a lucrative television series about a high school teacher/superhero, is so crass and ignorant (he can see Barrymore’s ghost because, Barrymore says, it doesn’t matter) his crudity easily goes over-the-top. Lori Ackerman’s sexually eager real estate agent/medium is delightful as well.

My favorite, after Odenhal, is Sutter Street regular Hazel Johnson. As Andrew’s agent, elderly Lillian Troy recalls a brief affair with Barrymore in this very apartment, and she has a love scene with the ghost that that is a highlight of the production.

The set by Mike Jimena and costumes by Eileen Beaver are perfect as always. But for me it is the casting of perfect actors for their roles and the fluid direction of their movement on stage that made this play, for me, the best thing I’ve seen yet in an outstanding Sutter Street season.

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