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‘I Hate Hamlet’ brings comedy to Shakesperian acting

Noelle Brake

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Theatre Tuscaloosa is bringing Shakespeare with a twist to the stage this month. They will perform “I Hate Hamlet,” a dramatic comedy by Paul Rudnick April 5-7 and 10-14.

The plot follows Andrew Rally, an accomplished actor whose TV career is at a standstill, and is offered a position on stage as Hamlet. The only problem? Andrew hates Hamlet. He is haunted by the ghost of John Barrymore, an actor famous for the role of Hamlet. Barrymore teaches Andrew how to act Shakespeare, and he learns a thing or two about appreciating the classic acting styles.

Gary Wise, who plays the ghost of John Barrymore, said that the character of Barrymore is fun to play from beginning to end.

“John Barrymore was a very famous actor in the early days,” Wise said. “I like the fact that he’s funny but also has serious scenes. He gets to play drunk, he gets to just be over-the-top with everything if he wants to be or he can bring it down.”

He also does a lot of scenes with Russell Stephens, who plays main character Andrew Rally.

“It’s a great part. It’s very funny. I think he’s the least interesting character,” Stephens said. “Everybody else is crazy.”

The main characters are not the only funny ones. Tina Turley, who plays Rally’s agent Lillian Troy, said her character also brings humor to the show.

“I really get to play this sort of Nazi character,” Turley said. “She speaks with a German accent. She smokes.”

Turley said the accent was difficult to grasp.

“I had a time getting this German accent down,” she said. “Especially when you have a Southern accent and want to draw everything out.”

Brad Caleb Lee, the scene and properties designer for the show, said that it has been in production since early November.

“I came on board right before Thanksgiving, and we had our first meetings to talk about the set and how big we wanted to go,” Lee said.

Paul Looney, the director of “I Hate Hamlet,” said although production has gone smoothly, the genre is not necessarily easy.

“Comedy is hard,” Looney said. “To do comedy is very, very difficult, but other than the normal demands that you would expect, there are other factors that require time. There’s swordplay in the show, so we had to bring someone in that was licensed to do that.”

Looney directed the same show in 1995 and said that made it easier to do it now, along with a helpful cast.

“It was so long ago, but this cast has made it easier because they’re more experienced than that group [his 1995 cast] as a whole,” Looney said. “I had some wonderful actors then, but this cast is strong from top to bottom.”

“I Hate Hamlet” will be performed at Shelton State’s Bean-Brown Theatre from April 5-7, then April 10-14. All performances will be held at 7:30 p.m., with the exception of the Wednesday and Sunday performances, which are held at 2 p.m. Adult tickets are $17, with senior citizen tickets priced at $15, group tickets at $13 (for a group 10+), student/child tickets at $12 and Shelton State student tickets at $6.

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‘I Hate Hamlet’ brings comedy to Shakesperian acting