By FRANK PHILLIPS
Don't you -- yes, YOU, the TV watching public -- don't you dare miss "I Hate Hamlet" at the Lark Theatre tonight or Saturday night.
OK, that's too cheesy, but this is a great comedy and more people should see it this week.
The show is about an out-of-work TV actor who takes a part in New York's Central Park, playing the lead in "Hamlet."
Perhaps the most famous Hamlet of all, John Barrymore (a relative of Drew's) is conjured up. Like the angel in "The Bishop's Wife," Barrymore (T.J. Sneddon) cannot return to heaven until he helps young actor Andrew Rally (played by Matthew Tribble) accomplish something. In this case, Barrymore must help Rally succeed in the great role of Hamlet.
The cast is filled out by the slightly daffy real estate agent, Felicia Dantine (Carol McConnell); the actor's agent, Lillian Troy (Amber Payne); Rally's 29-year-old girl friend, the virgin Deidre McDavey (Janelle Huber); and writer-director-producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz (Carl McKinney).
Right up to the time of Central Park's opening curtain, Rally strongly considers not playing Hamlet. He is pulled between Lefkowitz who arranges a $3 million deal to play a teacher/superhero in a TV series on one side and Barrymore and Deidre on the other side.
Playwright Paul Rudnick uses humor to present a message -- not unlike the "MASH" TV series. In fact, I kept thinking how Alan Alda would play the TV actor, but I was very pleased with Mr. Tribble's interpretation.
The message? Oh, something about the value of the theater and how there is just too much money in bad TV productions these days. You will have to see the play and second guess me for yourself.
Janelle Huber is delightful as the girl friend. She brings an innocence to the part, not unlike one would expect from an actress playing Lucy in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."
Carl McKinney has a touch of larceny about him as the high-roller TV executive and who would have thought T.J. Sneddon could play the rogue with such conviction?
Amber Payne is great as the agent and Barrymore's one-time conquest.
Carol McConnell as Felicia Dantine is surely talking to some spirit during the seance scene, if not her character's dead mother; she is that good.
In short, there is a touch of "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Hamlet" and situation comedy, rolled into a very entertaining production.
I liked it, even if Barrymore doesn't care for newspaper critics!
Tickets cost $25 for all dinner theater shows and buffet. Call Barbara Randall, 448-8772 for reservations or purchase tickets at Riddell National Bank, across National Ave. from the theater.
Community Theatre of Clay County's upcoming productions include the children's theater musical, "The Shoemaker, the Elves & the Magic Shoes" -- tickets cost $5 for adults and $2 for children through high school -- Nov. 3-4; "Christmas At The Lark: Bells, Birthdays and Heralds of Christmas!", Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2; "A Musical Evening with Jim Garber and Friends," Feb. 16-17; "Damn Yankees," March 8-10; and "A Musical German Maifest (Mayfest!)" featuring Col. Matt Huber and his German Band.