Stage Right presents new twist on Shakespearean classic
The opportunity to one day play "Hamlet" might be the dream of many actors, but Andrew Rally isn't necessarily one of them.
Presented with the daunting role, the young television actor, now far from the comfort of his familiar Hollywood, is in a fluster as he rehearses for opening night in New York City.
It doesn't make it any easier that Rally has received a lucrative offer to star in a television series, and he feels he has to choose between Shakespeare and fame. Adding to the frustration is his girlfriend, Deirdre, who believes that intimacy should wait until marriage.
What's a confused thespian to do?
The answers play out in Stage Right Community Theatre's season-opening comedy, "I Hate Hamlet," Thursday through Saturday and Oct. 20 through 22 at Boyd Community Center in O'Hara.
It all promises to be spooky fun as Halloween approaches, says director Bill Ivins of Indiana Township, also theater president and artistic director.
During a seance conducted by Rally's real-estate agent, the spirit of John Barrymore is conjured, providing the actor with guidance on the ways of theater and love. Rally's angst only increases when he realizes his ghostly mentor has betrayed him by seducing his beloved Deirdre.
Paul Rudnick's play appealed to the actor in him, Ivins says. "Here's a story about a guy who gets one of the best, but most-demanding, roles in theater, and he's absolutely terrified," Ivins says. "I enjoy the homage paid to the craft of acting, and the pep-talk speech by Barrymore's ghost is sheer poetry."
The script is a love letter to theater, as much as it is a satire of the theatrical world, says Adam Kukic, of Aspinwall, who portrays Rally. Kukic, a graduate of Shadyside Academy in Fox Chapel and Allegheny College in Meadville, taught acting and directed in Salzburg, Austria, for two years, and is a recent "Director of the Year" in Pittsburgh theater.
"I couldn't pass up an opportunity to be a part of this show," he says. "Andrew wants to be taken seriously as an actor. It's easy to relate to his self-deprecating sense of humor, as well as his conflict between acting as a career versus acting as an art form."
Kukic appreciates that there is a depth to this play "that heightens it beyond just being a comedy."
"I have been telling people that this is a great comedy, played by an ensemble of great actors," Ivins says. "Rudnick is a great storyteller and the dialog moves along beautifully, with each character given great lines to help shape their characters." The six actors are making their Stage Right debut, although one, Jeanne Kingsland of Aspinwall, has been the set painter and designer the past few seasons.
Ivins read the script a few years ago and liked it, but was somewhat worried about being able to attract actors capable of portraying Rally and the legendary John Barrymore. "Fortunately, my timing was right, and I had the incredibly good fortune of finding Adam and Brad Sadler."
"Barrymore is extremely witty, funny and full of himself, and those roles are always a lot of fun to perform," Sadler of Penn Hills says. "This is a show with laughs, drama and even an exciting action sequence (a sword fight)."
Ivins encourages his actors to follow their instincts in their characterization. "Part of Stage Right's mission is to have fun producing quality theater, " he says."It was amazing to see how quickly the cast seemed to get their characters, and the chemistry was remarkable right from the first rehearsal."
Intermission brings light refreshments for the audience, provided by the theater. The venue, a community gymnasium, is more relaxed than some theater experiences, Kingsland says. It is set up with tables with checkered tablecloths and tea candles, and audience members can take their beer or wine.
She is looking forward to taking the stage for the first time in the role of Lillian Troy, Rally's elderly German agent, who, years earlier, had a "little fling" with Barrymore.
Kingsland's mother, the late Doris Hackney, was a professional actress and a leading lady at the old Pittsburgh Playhouse through the early 1970s until her last role in 1988 at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. "I grew up hanging out backstage and in the dressing rooms, and absolutely loved the magic and excitement of putting on a production," she says. "She is definitely my inspiration for this role, one I'm certain she would have loved, as well."
Everyone loves a comedy, says Jordan Christian of Pittsburgh. She is enjoying the role of Deirdre "an innocent, yet passionate actress who longs for a storybook romance."
Andy Coleman of Pittsburgh's North Side tries to capture some of that attention as Gary Peter Leifkowitz, Rally's good friend and manager. "I immediately saw the character as a cross between George Costanza (of "Seinfeld") and Nathan Detroit ("Guys and Dolls"). He is so much fun to play onstage," he says.
Stage Right Community Theatre
What: 'I Hate Hamlet'
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Oct. 20-22
Where: Boyd Community Center, 1220 Powers Run Road, O'Hara.
Admission: $14; light refreshments included; patrons may bring their wine or beer, but not spirits. Open seating. Tables can be reserved with a paid reservation of six or more.
Season tickets: $36 for three-show season.