By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Jenkins also buckles great swash in the choreographed swordplay required at the end of Act 1, a scene that unfolds like the finale of the film My Favorite Year, which starred Peter O'Toole as a washed-up old cinema star not unlike Errol Flynn. And just as O'Toole did in the movie, Jenkins' Barrymore, in true master thespian form (as Rudnick intends), finishes I Hate Hamletwith a showy flourish, demonstrating to his younger co-star how to fake-react sincere humility as waves of applause wash over the stage (a ploy that sends the audience out smiling and satisfied).
In real life, the end of John Barrymore's life story was less uplifting. He was washed up by the 1930s, pickled by alcohol and regret. In the films he made in the '30s, he already was a ghost of his formerly magnificent self, stumbling drunkenly through roles in Grand Hoteland A Bill of Divorcement(he died in '42 at age 60).
We don't see that Barrymore, though the playwright does allow the character a run through his personal résumé of successes and failures to educate Andrew (and the young folk in the audience) about the life of one of the 20th century's greatest actors. (And yes, Drew is related, named for John's mother, actress Georgiana Drew.)
Rudnick, whose funniest writing showed up under the pseudonym "Libby Gelman-Waxner" in a celeb-dishing column in Premiere magazine, has written himself a reliable evergreen with this play. By turning down the volume on his usually gay-centric bitchery (Rudnick's other play is the hey-girlfriend gay melodrama Jeffrey), he ensures this comedy's appeal to a general audience. In the WaterTower's aces production, it's clear what a gem this play is in the right hands. Lacing the humor of I Hate Hamletwith a few selected lines from Shakespeare and some appropriately thoughtful musings by a gentle spirit, the play offers theatergoers a little Will and a lot of grace.