Having just finished working on a production of Hamlet, I was all giggles re-reading Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet. There are so many Shakespeare nerd jokes in here, as well as plenty for people who truly do hate Hamlet. I love the idea that "Every soul embarking upon Hamlet is permitted to summon an earlier player. From Burbage to Kean to Irving - " as Barrymore says to his young mentee Andrew. I like to think that this really does happen and that all the Hamlets of the world are just tight-lipped about it.. but behind closed doors there are old Hamlets fencing with new Hamlets in a boot-camp of Shakespearean tradition. Please don't ruin this idea for me with your "logic," okay world?
Barrymore is a deliciously over-the-top character and, I imagine, a joy to play. He says to Andrew later in the play:
in my prime - I faced the dragon. I accepted a role so insanely complex, so fantastic and impossible, that any attempt is only that - an attempt! And I stood in the light, before a crowd fully prepared to dismiss, to deride, and to depart. And I shook them, I wooed them, and I said, yes, you will stay, and yes, you will remember! And for one moment in my life, I used all that I knew, every shred of talent, every ounce of gall! I was John Barrymore! And for those sacred evenings, there was no shame. I played Hamlet!Last year was the first time I had the desire to play Hamlet. Before that I'd always wanted to play Ophelia, I still do, but I felt the tug to play the prince himself when I was at an audition that asked me to prepare "O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt.." ...something happened as I worked on that speech -- I'd always appreciated Hamlet and felt for him and enjoyed watching other actors play him.. but in that audition room I felt connected to him. I understood why every actor wants to play him, and why every actor is afraid of him. His text, though heightened, is so relatable. So personal. ... I will most likely never be given the opportunity to play Hamlet, but that doesn't mean a girl can't dream. Ay, there's the rub :)
Saturday Play-a-day: Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin