<i>I Hate Hamlet</I>

Staff photos by Dean H. Borgwardt

TERRY O’Neal plays Lillian Troy, a former lover of the late John Barrymore, alongside actor Gerard Maguire. Troy and Barrymore reminisce about their past fling in the comedy I Hate Hamlet.

That's the opposite of what you'll find during Canyon Moon Theatre's current production of Paul Rudnick's bemused comedy I Hate Hamlet.

There's no algebra in this play. Instead, there are ghosts, seances and even a touch of the surreal.

In the opening scene, California soap star Andrew Rally (Rick Davis) has just moved into a New York City apartment that was once occupied by the late philandering thespian John Barrymore.

"Is there a mote?," Rally asks while glancing around the Gothic-looking apartment.

Meanwhile, his actress girlfriend Deirdre McDavy (Danielle Miller), his agent Lillian Troy (Terry O’Neal), and realtor Felicia Dantine (Zoë Yeoman) have gathered to see where the infamous lush Barrymore resided. Troy remembers the apartment from the 1940s when she had a fling with the great Barrymore.

Rally's agent has booked him to play Hamlet in Shakespeare in the Park. The thought of doing live theater sends Rally into a frantic frenzy. The opportunity to play the greatest stage role in the English language, that of Hamlet, is more than Rally can swallow.

"I don't want to play Hamlet," he shouts. "I hate Hamlet!"

His Realtor suggests a séance so that Rally can contact Barrymore and ask his advice about playing the role. After all, Barrymore was the "greatest Hamlet of all time." A single white candle is placed on the table as the four put their hands on the table with palms down. As if making a person-to-person call, Dantine channels Barrymore through her departed mother. Outside the thunder rolls and the connection is lost. Dantine thinks she has failed but upstairs the ghost of Barrymore (Gerard Maguire) appears dressed as Hamlet.

The riotous incarnation of the famous actor proceeds to offer not only acting lessons, but advice on life and love.

If anyone seems destined to play the ghost of Barrymore, it's actor Gerard Maguire. From the moment he appears on stage in black tights, Maguire captures the audience's attention and holds it until the ride is over. His strong presence and powerful voice lend itself to this role. Maguire delivers a superb interpretation of Barrymore. Clearly Maguire has enormous fun with the swoons, sword fights, and pranks the role demands.

The part-time Sedona resident said the role requires great skill, dexterity and physical acting.

"It's a style of acting we don't see," said Maguire, a native Australian.

The goal is to make the style real and believable so it's not ham acting, he added. It's challenging because "we're not impersonating Barrymore," he explained during rehearsal.

While Maguire has played many roles, he jumped at the chance to play the dashing Barrymore.

"He was a legendary actor."

Canyon Moon audiences may remember Maguire from productions of Art and Side by Side by Sondheim. His extensive film and TV career includes leading parts in Australian TV series including Prisoner Cell Block H. He has performed with the Melbourne and Sydney Theatre Companies in plays by Shakespeare, Sheridan, Pinter and Mamet. His many credits include acting in London’s West End as well as being a writer/producer on the feature film Gross Misconduct.

Rick Davis is another familiar face at CMTC. His portrayal of Rally, the hot, young television-actor-turned-New York-theater transplant, is hilarious. His efforts to bed his self-absorbed 29-year-old virgin girlfriend draw laughter while evoking compassion.

Davis was last scene at CMTC in How the Other Half Loves. He also appeared in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and The Foreigner.

One tender moment in the play involves Rally's agent, Lillian Troy, beguilingly created by Terry O’Neal as an old flame of Barrymore who nostalgically wishes to relive their brief encounter.

O'Neal spent many hours perfecting a German accent for the part. She rented movies and listened to language tapes, she said. She was determined to make her accent sound authentic, not phony. This was a challenge because an actor tends to be consumed with mastering the accent rather than focusing on behavior, said O'Neal, who was an actress and theatrical director in Los Angeles for many years.

Zoë Yeoman is funny and hip as she channels through her mother. As the New York realtor she smacks of the Big Apple with an authentic accent and mannerisms. Her charismatic presence and colorful costumes brighten the stage. Yeoman is a working actor, also living in Los Angles and her most recent credits include television’s The Practice, Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit and The Drew Carey Show.

Although newcomers to the Canyon Moon stage, Danielle Miller and John Messina hold their own with the pros.

Messina nails his role as Gary Peter Lefkowitz, a "do-lunch-and-deals" Hollywood agent who is narcissistic and obsessed with making money. Dressed in designer suits and wearing a ring on every other finger, Messina emulates the producer-director stereotype audiences love to hate.

Miller, a theater major from New England, offers a convincing performance as the melodramatic Deirdre McDavy who is fascinated with Barrymore. Her innocent humor including fuzzy bunny slippers keeps the audience chuckling.

Canyon Moon Theatre completely recreated its stage for this production with an upper level and brownstone exterior. The elaborate costumes, props and comedic dialogue enhance the theatrical experience.

I Hate Hamlet continues today through Sunday. Wednesday through Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinee begins at 3 p.m. Tickets are $13 for Wednesday and Thursday, $17 for all other performances. Full-time students are $10 for all shows. Tickets are available by phone or at Bonni’s Fashions in the Old Marketplace and Rycus Corners Stationers in the Village of Oak Creek. Call (928) 282-6212 for tickets or information or visit the Web site at http://www.canyonmoontheatre.org

Canyon Moon Theatre is located at the Old Marketplace, 1370 Arizona 89A, beside New Frontiers Natural Foods in West Sedona.

Canyon Moon Theatre Company is a nonprofit professional theatre company.

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