by Michael Meigs
You don't have to hate Shakespeare's Hamlet in order to enjoy this lighthearted romp, but it does help to have an appreciation for ghosts. We're not talking about the grim visaged former king of Shakespeare's imagined Denmark, but about the much friendlier shade of the great tragedian John Barrymore. Once he appears after the obligatory set-up scenes of the television actor and his girlfriend moving into an ancient and remarkable old apartment in New York City, Kyle Evans gives us a Barrymore as agreeable as Caspar the Friendly Ghost and a good deal more willing to provide thespian advice while swigging directly from a bottle of champagne.
Playwright Rudnick is quoted in the program relating that he once answered an classified ad in the New York Times real estate section advertising a "medieval duplex," quarters that turned out to have been renovated and inhabited by John Barrymore in 1917. Wikipedia asserts perhaps erroneously that the playwright was living there when he wrote this piece in 1991. As usual, the designers and builders at the Palace do a fine job of creating the setting, a towering set drab and draped in sheets for the first act, revealed after the intermission to have been artfully recreated as Barrymore's "Alchemist's Corner."
Ismael Soto III plays Andrew Rally, a newly unemployed celebrity television actor who has returned from Hollywood to New York in search of serious work. The folks down at Shakespeare in the Park were delighted to offer him the role of the melancholy Dane, but Andrew doesn't rally to the idea. There's too much on his mind just now. For the past five months he has been steadily dating this adamantly chaste girlfriend, Deirdre; his agent the ageing Teutonic former artiste has gotten him nothing but this gig in Central Park, where they approved the assignment without even paying attention to his audition piece; his bouncing buddy the Hollywood writer-promoter is shopping around a ridiculous new concept for a television series that promises big bucks; and then there's this medieval duplex he accepted, sight unseen, from the cheerfully garrulous woman real estate agent.
Life is a bit too much for Andrew. And then add to that this alarmingly healthy dead guy who insists that he can't get out of the apartment until Andrew establishes himself as the inheritor of the Hamlet tradition.
Click to read more at AustinLiveTheatre.com . . . .