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Friday, May 9, 2014

Sunset Playhouse Hates Hamlet?

Making light of a classic drama

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The Sunset Playhouse continues its season with Paul Rudnick’s 1991 light comedy I Hate Hamlet. Sunset does considerable justice to the script. Mitch Weindorf is suitably charismatic as Andrew, a television actor from Hollywood who has moved to New York. He finds himself quite reluctantly plastered into the role of Hamlet for an upcoming outdoor production. Ruth Arnell mixes irresistible sweetness with earnestly impassioned imbalance as his girlfriend and fellow actor, Deirdre.

The two have moved into the former home of legendary actor John Barrymore. In spite of Deirdre’s enthusiasm, Andrew is reluctant to go ahead with playing the role of Hamlet until the ghost of the late John Barrymore shows up. The towering Michael Chobanoff intermittently conjures a tremendous amount of gravitas for the role of a legendary stage actor. The dynamic between Chobanoff and Weindorf is strong enough to carry the central conflict of the comedy quite well even when the overall momentum of the relationship fails to hit its potential.

Rudnick’s script is a love letter to theater with respect to one of the most difficult dramas ever written for the stage. He makes the mistake of trying to capture the magic in moments drawn directly from Shakespeare’s work, which is difficult enough to do in the full context of the original play. Difficulty aside, Chobanoff comes strikingly close to rendering something transcendent at times.

Thankfully, any shortcomings that crop up in the course of the comedy barely register.

Sunset Playhouse’s production of I Hate Hamlet runs through May 18 at the Furlan Auditorium, 800 Elm Grove Road. For tickets, call 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.