Clove Creek’s Comedic Production of I Hate Hamlet is “Not to Be” Missed!
Review by Louisa Vilardi
In Clove Creek Dinner Theater’s I Hate Hamlet, director Brandon Patterson has assembled a cast full of wit and energy that will leave you with a belly full of delicious food and laughs.
Andrew Rally’s (Steven Bendler) agent has persuaded him to play the role of Hamlet in New York City’s production of Shakespeare in the Park. Rally must battle his hate of Hamlet with his love of the craft of acting, which leaves him indecisive and unsettled. Rally moves to the City to play the role, and is met by Felicia Dantine (Amber Loija Mason), a real estate agent full of gusto, who is excited to show Rally his new place. The property is distinguished by having once belonged to the late John Barrymore (Patrick Spaulding), whose quintessential portrayal of Hamlet years ago set the bar for any actor who followed him.
Although the apartment is too grand and gothic for Rally’s taste, his agent (Laurel Riley-Brown) compels him to stay in the apartment for the selfish reason that it is the site where she once carried on an affair with Barrymore. Rally is further moved to take the place by his girlfriend, Deirdre McDavey (Tamara Cacchione). McDavey, while modestly saving herself for marriage, thinks the knowledge of the talented Barrymore’s having been resident there might inspire Rally’s performance, and with it, her libido, such that she might have the impetus to finally sleep with him.
Once in the new space, the ghost of Barrymore appears, and assists Rally in battling his demons while Barrymore himself is challenged by a ghost and Gary (Brandon Patterson), a vivacious Hollywood producer. Against these storylines, we are treated to a seance, swordplay, and Shakespearean citations in a side-splitting play.
The ghost of legendary John Barrymore is played by standout actor and handsome charmer, Patrick Spaulding who has an impressive bravado that fills the theater. Spaulding is a natural, precise in his comedic timing while also leaving the audience welling up in tears during more emotional moments.
Steven Bendler’s portrayal of Andrew Rally is stellar and spot-on and he plays Rally as he should, a rambler, a self-doubter, and a true TV actor whose claims to fame are his role on LA Medical and his popular but embarrassing commercial, where he kisses a chipmunk hand puppet on the head. Bendler is a gift on stage and is full of depth and presence as Rally. He succeeds in delivering a true range of emotions as what could have been a very static character. From outstanding comedic chops to emotional poignancy, Bendler shines.
Tamara Cacchione is a pure dream to watch on stage as she plays the flighty Dierdre. She is a true artist and talented actress who evokes a good mix of desperation, sincerity, passion and enchantment. She is melodic and simply flawless in this production.
Laurel Riley-Brown plays German agent Lillian Troy, and is a perfect blend of absurdity and emotion. Riley-Brown plays an older woman with an emphysemic cough who delivers some of the funniest one-liners of the play. The most moving scene of the play is when she reunites with Barrymore and they reminisce about being young lovers, which triggers the audience to remember simpler times in life when a romantic stillness was enough. It’s a credit to the chemistry and performance of Riley-Brown and Spaulding that one wishes this scene lasted much longer.
Amber Loija Mason delivers energy and zeal to the stage as Felicia Dantine. Her facial expressions and physicality, especially during the seance, evoke humor which sets the tone of the play from the start. She provides us with comic relief which balances out some of the more emotional moments between other characters on stage.
Brandon Patterson, who also directed this production, plays Gary Lefkowitz, a slimy Hollywood producer who tries to convince Rally that his time would be better spent on screen rather than on stage. Patterson is BIG from the moment he enters to the last breath of each exit.
Patterson’s direction gives us a production which is sharp, funny, and gritty, with clever staging.
I Hate Hamlet runs through September 22, 2019 at Clove Creek Dinner Theater in Fishkill, NY. For tickets and more information, please visit www.CloveCreekDinnerTheater.com
Louisa Vilardi is a writer and theater director who lives in the Hudson Valley. Her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, Today Parenting Team, and Scary Mommy. More at www.LouisaVilardi.com