August 17, 1998
Photo by Todd Westendorf
The cast of "I Hate Hamlet" includes (Back, l-r) Melanie Workhoven, David Wingert, Daniel Grossbord. (Front) Melanie Calderwood and Jennifer Brady.
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--Judging by the extended applause and shouts of "bravo," the opening night audience loved the comedy 'I Hate Hamlet.'
It was also the premiere performance of the Woodinville Repertory Theater. The six-member cast performed Paul Rudnick's play almost flawlessly in Leota Junior High's new 100-plus seat theater.
The play moved quickly, the audience often exploding in laughter at one-liners sprinkled throughout the two-hour show.
Directed by Woodinville High School Drama teacher Hjalmer Anderson and co-produced by Peg Phillips, of Northern Exposure fame, the play centers on Andrew Rally (played by Jason Griffin), who has recently moved to New York after his ER-type TV show didn't fair so well on a "shaky" network.
The play asks the central question, to be or not to be? Not to be is to go back to TV, while to be is to perform the lead role in one of the best plays ever penned.
Griffin plays well the part of a moping Hollywood TV actor who's used to seeing his mug on the cover of TV Guide.
He has every reason to hate the moping Dane. He has just won the lead role in a Shakespeare-in-the-park version of Hamlet, after his fifth audition, but he's not sure about playing him. But, he knows he didn't go to acting school for two years to do commercials which was his latest job.
There's a glimmer of hope from Hyphenville-Hollywood, that is. Rally's friend, TV director-producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz (David Wingert), has used his name to land a network offer on a pilot with five episodes where he would play a teacher in an inner city neighborhood by day and have supernatural powers at night. It's an enticement Rally finds hard to say no to.
Lefkowitz warns Rally his career is at stake. "When you do the greatest play in the world, they'll know you're washed up," he confides. There's also money in it for Lefkowitz.
But then there's Rally's girlfriend, Deirdre (Jennifer Brady), a 29-year-old virgin he's been faithfully necking with for six months. She spurns Rally's marriage proposal, ("that's sweet") but thrills to be told "Get thee to a nunnery!" forcefully.
What's needed is an intermediary, someone to kick the melancholy Rally into action.
It just so happens that Rally has leased the apartment formerly occupied by John Barrymore (Daniel Grossbard), a dissolute woman-chaser who played Hamlet at least 101 times before he died.
Barrymore is called back from the dead by Rally's' real estate broker, Felicia (Melanie Workhoven) after a seance. Later, Barrymore explains that every person who plays Hamlet summons an earlier actor and Rally has called him. And, shades of 'Hamlet,' he can't return to the grave until Rally plays the part perfectly, "or I'll be trapped forever within these walls with a TV actor." So both have motivation to be rid of the other.
After a sword fight where Barrymore knocks Rally's belongings around, Rally accepts the role of Hamlet and the pair of actors grow alike, or at least Rally becomes more like Barrymore.
Rally learns how to drink (straight from the bottle), how to dress (in tights with a codpiece, a sort of "purse" for the "family jewels"), that the Bard may be better than Viagra and mixes what he considers passion and Shakespeare ("Be gone, wench" he orders Deirdre).
Still, he gets cold feet on opening night.
So what happens? Has Barrymore's coaching done the job? How well can he play Hamlet? Or does he run back to TV? And does Deirdre finally say yes?
To find out, you'll have to attend the play yourself.
'I Hate Hamlet' shows Aug. 20, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m., and Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. at Leota, 19301 168th Ave. N.E. Call (425) 481-8502 for ticket information or write to WRT, PO Box 2003, Woodinville, WA 98072.
The Woodinville Repertory Theater was founded by Phillips about four months ago, ostensibly to give the city a little culture and relief from a bout of "grand mall seizure." In that short time the theater company has come together, finding actors (almost four dozen auditioned for the play), a director in Anderson, technical support, community backing and a stage at Leota.
And this is just the beginning. The group has plans to put on another play this winter, a musical later next year as well as open a children's theater.
Prompted by cast member Wingert to say something memorable for a Seattle newspaper reporter in the audience, Phillips commented, "As ol' Al Jolson said, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet!'"