By Anita Raymon
“I Hate Hamlet,” Theatre a la Carte’s fall production at the Community Church of Douglaston, is an imaginative play which resurrects the ghost of the late, great actor, John Barrymore, flamboyantly played by John Ferry.
He returns to his old brownstone apartment in Washington Square to help a young television actor, Andrew Rally (Jimmy O’Neill), make his debut at Shakespeare in the Park in the role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Traditionally, a previous Hamlet is charged with the task of passing on his knowledge of the character to the next generation. Unfortunately, this aspiring actor is more familiar with television commercials for snack food than the Bard.
A real estate agent, Felicia, (Deborah Bekefi) is showing the apartment to Rally for rental during his debut in New York. She is brash, psychic, and impressed by the famous surroundings. She is also an amateur medium who uses her deceased mother as her spirit guide, and tries to contact Barrymore from the other side. Unbeknown to the participants in the seance, she is successful and his ghost returns.
Rally, the would-be Hamlet, has terrible misgivings about playing the part, since he has no experience in declaiming Shakespeare's dialogue. He has been successful in a TV commercial with a squirrel advertising snack food. Therein lies his dilemma. How does he make up his mind?
Barrymore appears before him, in full Hamlet garb, persuading him that Hamlet will present such challenges that he will become a confident actor from such an experience. Rally has appeared in dozens of productions, recently playing in two American Theatre of Actors plays. With Barrymore as his mentor, he slowly believes he has a chance as Hamlet.
John Ferry returns to the Queens stage after six years abroad where he appeared in the London RCS company playing Iago in Othello. He is perfectly at home as Barrymore giving a swaggering, boastful image of the actor in his heyday: sex symbol and charmer. Ferry as Barrymore teaches Rally sword play, stage presence and works hard on the life of the character, with funny quips and asides.
One of his conquests, surprisingly, is Rally's agent, the stately Lillian (Ruth Borovicka) who many years before had a romantic interlude with Barrymore. She is charming and sociable, and the apartment brings back sweet memories of their past encounter.
Rally's “virgin goddess” is 29-year-old Deirdre (Wendy Porter), a hopeless romantic. She wants to be sure that she has chosen the right one, and will not sleep with Andrew until she is sure about him. She longs to be Ophelia to Andrew’s Hamlet, while Barrymore flirts with her behind her back. Porter, an experienced actress who has toured in “Beauty and the Beast” and recently starred in “Rags,” gives a polished performance as the shy, innocent Deirdre.
Gary Tifeld plays Gary, a brash, Hollywood promoter who blows in from L.A. to persuade Rally to give up this Hamlet project, and sign with him for a $3 million contract to be in a TV sitcom. Who needs Shakespeare when there are big bucks to be made?
Tifeld has appeared in many community theater productions and also was featured as Avram in the Queens premier of the musical “Rags” at Flushing Town Hall. He plays the typical Hollywood wise-guy with the colored shirt and cap – the epitome of commercial excess.
When this ensemble cast is together, mayhem and laughter keep the comedy right on track, under the excellent direction of Jagana Martin.
Performances continue Friday and Saturday Nov. 2, 3, 9, 10 at 8 p.m. and Sundays Nov. 4 and 11 at 3 p.m. Call 718-631-4092 for tickets and information.
The Community Church of Douglaston is at 39-50 Douglaston Pkwy.
This is Anita Raymond’s farewell review. She is returning to her native England. All of us at Qguide wish her the very best.