Kathleen Balducci and and Pat Owens dance during a rehearsal of “I Hate Hamlet.” — Kate Carter.

Kathleen Balducci and and Pat Owens dance during a rehearsal of “I Hate Hamlet.” — Kate Carter.

‘To thine own self be true’ … ‘I Hate Hamlet’ debuts tonight in Port Angeles

‘To be or not to be’ Hamlet, that is the question a New York actor must decide in this comedy-drama.

PORT ANGELES — For protagonist Andrew Rally, portrayed by Brian Wendt of Port Angeles, the lesson he must learn in “I Hate Hamlet” is to be true to himself, said director Barb Frederick.

“This young man has some decisions to make about his life and what destiny means,” she said.

The play — a comedy-drama written by Paul Rudnick in 1991 — debuts at 7:30 this evening at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd. It continues with several performances through Oct. 9.

This is the first play of the Port Angeles Community Players’s 64th season, sponsored by Hallett Advisors.

Frederick invites the public to attend the debut, because “there is no energy like the energy on an opening night,” she said this week.

“It is when all the work finally pays off for a cast, because they really get to perform. They get that audience, they get that reaction and feed off of that. That is really what we do it for anyway, the audience.”

In the play, set in New York City, Rally is a successful television star who has been cast in the leading role of Hamlet in the Shakespeare play of the same name in Central Park, but doesn’t want to do it, Frederick said.

Complicating matters, his girlfriend Deirdre McDavey — portrayed by Misha Casella-Blackburn — has taken a vow of chastity and refuses to have sex with him.

Rally is apprehensive about returning to New York, but his realtor Felicia Dantine — portrayed by Mindy Gelder — rents him an apartment once inhabited by John Barrymore.

Barrymore was a real-life thespian, and grandfather of movie actress Drew Barrymore, who was cast in the leading role of “Hamlet” in 1922, according to historians. Barrymore’s portrayal led to him being called the “greatest living American tragedian” by the Brooklyn Life Magazine in November of that year.

When writing, “I Hate Hamlet,” Rudnick was living in an apartment previously owned by Barrymore, and drew inspiration from that fact, according to historians.

In “I Hate Hamlet,” Troy reminisces about her romance with Barrymore, and convinces Rally to host a séance to bring him back.

When Barrymore — portrayed by Pat Owens — appears as an apparition dressed in Elizabethan-era garb, Rally proclaims his hatred of “Hamlet.”

Barrymore presses Rally to accept the part and fulfill his destiny, going so far as to challenge him to a sword fight in the middle of the New York loft.

Rally is then contacted by a Hollywood producer — portrayed by Michael Aldrich — who offers him a leading role in a new TV pilot, forcing him to choose between his role in “Hamlet,” beloved by his girlfriend, or potential fame and fortune in California.

While referencing the works of Shakespeare, “I Hate Hamlet,” was written for modern audiences, Frederick said.

“I don’t want people to think they are coming to see Shakespeare,” she said.

“There is a little bit of [Elizabethan era] language in it and a Hamlet twist to it, but that is not all.”

Rudnick, Frederick said, “has given us a rare treat — a play with a lot of wit and fun without insulting anyone or assuming the audience is not intelligent.

“That’s what drew me to it. It is full of a lot of wit and charm and very funny lines.”

The cast has been preparing for tonight’s performance for nearly two months, Frederick said.

“I hit the casting jackpot with a wonderful mix of seasoned veterans, some of whom we haven’t seen on stage in a while, and actors newer to the stage,” she said.

”They are wildly inventive and deliver a ton of laughs and charm, make my job easy and will make audiences laugh — a lot.”

The set and props were built by Ross Kavanaugh and Kathy Balducci, and the costumes designed by Barb Combr, Frederick said.

“We have a great set crew, [and] we have a lot of fun with costumes,” she said.

The audience can catch a live performance of “I Hate Hamlet” at 7:30 tonight, Saturday, Tuesday, Sept. 30, Oct. 1., Oct. 4, Oct. 7 and Oct. 8; or at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2 or Oct. 9.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students and youths.

Reserved seating is $15 for adults or $8 for students and youths.

Tickets for Tuesdays are $15 in advance or $8 at the door for festival seating.

The play is suitable for all ages with guidance, and the Playhouse is wheelchair accessible.

For more information, visit http://pacommunity players.com/ or call 360-452-6651.

Mindy Gelder, Michael Aldrich and Misha Cassella-Blackburn, seen here, rehearse for “I Hate Hamlet.” — Kate Carter.

Mindy Gelder, Michael Aldrich and Misha Cassella-Blackburn, seen here, rehearse for “I Hate Hamlet.” — Kate Carter.

Pat Owens, from left, Brian Wendt and Misha Cassella-Blackburn rehearse for “I Hate Hamlet,” which opens tonight. — Kate Carter.

Pat Owens, from left, Brian Wendt and Misha Cassella-Blackburn rehearse for “I Hate Hamlet,” which opens tonight. — Kate Carter.

Misha Cassella-Blackburn and Brian Wendt rehearse a scene from “I Hate Hamlet.” — Kate Carter.

Misha Cassella-Blackburn and Brian Wendt rehearse a scene from “I Hate Hamlet.” — Kate Carter.

Misha Cassella-Blackburn and Brian Wendt nuzzle onstage. — Kate Carter.

Misha Cassella-Blackburn and Brian Wendt nuzzle onstage. — Kate Carter.

Misha Cassella-Blackburn and Brian Wendt nuzzle onstage. — Kate Carter.

Misha Cassella-Blackburn and Brian Wendt nuzzle onstage. — Kate Carter.

Pat Owens, as John Barrymore, left, and Brian Wendt, as Andrew Rally, spar during a rehearsal of “I Hate Hamlet,” — a comedy-drama written by Paul Rudnick in 1991 that debuts at 7:30 this evening at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd. It continues with several performances through Oct. 9. — Kate Carter.

Pat Owens, as John Barrymore, left, and Brian Wendt, as Andrew Rally, spar during a rehearsal of “I Hate Hamlet,” — a comedy-drama written by Paul Rudnick in 1991 that debuts at 7:30 this evening at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd. It continues with several performances through Oct. 9. — Kate Carter.

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