A ghostly John Barrymore (Harrison Coe) takes young TV star Andrew Rally (Matt MacLaren) under his spectral wing as he attempts to teach him the art of playing Hamlet in I Hate Hamlet, which runs at Powerhouse Theatre Feb. 21 to March 3. (Kelly Winston photo)

A ghostly John Barrymore (Harrison Coe) takes young TV star Andrew Rally (Matt MacLaren) under his spectral wing as he attempts to teach him the art of playing Hamlet in I Hate Hamlet, which runs at Powerhouse Theatre Feb. 21 to March 3. (Kelly Winston photo)

Play takes a jab at William Shakespeare

Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre Society presents I Hate Hamlet Feb. 21 to March 3

It’s like Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy Hamlet, if Hamlet was used to mock the poet simultaneously loved by critics and loathed by high school English classes.

Powerhouse Theatre Society presents Paul Rudnick’s dramatic comedy I Hate Hamlet Feb. 21 to March 3.

“This is not Hamlet. This is not a remake,” laughed director Adele Kuyek. “We’re making fun of Shakespeare. It’s like when you go to see a Shakespeare play and you don’t quite know what’s going on, we’re poking fun at that aspect. I’m so excited about this. I read the script and I really wanted to do this.”

Set entirely in the apartment of John Barrymore, the renowned actor with deep familial roots in the craft who rose to great heights for his 1922 portrayal of Hamlet, I Hate Hamlet follows TV star Andrew Rally (Matt MacLaren) and his quest to rekindle his love of acting.

Rally, a quintessential Hollywood actor, moves back to New York City to retake the Broadway stage and lands the role of Hamlet, although he hates Hamlet.

“His initial love was theatre, which was why he moved back to New York City,” Kuyek said. “Being given the role of Hamlet, his inner dialogue is, ‘I can’t do this.’”

Luckily for Rally, assistance is readily available and closer than he may think — or hope.

As it turns out, the former apartment owner never left his gothic suite. Barrymore (Harrison Coe), now a spectral denizen of Rally’s new pad, is there to coach Rally to Hamlet stardom.

“Barrymore’s grand entrance is a very theatrical event and Coe is very Barrymore-esque,” Kuyek said. “Barrymore appears to teach him and coach him, and Andrew is having none of it.”

Unfortunately for Rally, Barrymore refuses to move on until Hamlet is perfected. From the moment Rally enters his new apartment and the curtains open on this fast-paced comedy, it’s clear that life hasn’t gone exactly to plan for the TV star.

Chained to an apartment and ghostly roommate of which he wants to rid himself and coping with the loss of his Hollywood income, Rally’s journey is wrought with inner struggle.

“There are quite a few elements. Basically from the moment he walks on stage he’s hit with stuff and it’s just about how he deals with it,” Kuyek said. “They do have moments of honesty and clarity about who they are.”

Barrymore, who got his start on Broadway and ended his career on the silver screen, shares his regrets with Rally over his career choices to help the young actor find his way.

“The whole resolution of how it’s solved is beautiful,” Kuyek said. “It’s not just a farce.”

Complete with sword-fighting scenes coached by Mike Panian of Swordfighters Martial Arts and Self Defence and dance scenes taught by Heather Stranks of City Dance Studio, I Hate Hamlet at its roots is about pure enjoyment.

“We’re making it very theatrical. The tech behind it is very complex,” Kuyek said. “They’re a very amazing cast and crew. They’re all doing an amazing job. The stuff that goes on in the back, people don’t really realize but they do deserve recognition.”

While the show takes place entirely in a New York City apartment, Kuyek said the set is enviable.

The two story gothic apartment, constructed by Gord Bannerman’s team and decorated by Sarah McLean’s crew, has been in the works since Jan. 2 with finishing touches added daily leading up to the show.

“I look at it and go (wow). They’ve just built a house on the stage of Powerhouse Theatre. You have to see it,” Kuyek said. “It takes over the theatre.”

And, when the talented cast roams the set, it’s sure to be wonderful, Kuyek said.

“It’s perfect for the end of February,” Kuyek said. “It’s going to be a hoot.”

Powerhouse Theatre presents I Hate Hamlet Feb. 21 to March 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 25 and March 3 at 2 p.m. Following a new partnership with Little Tex Restaurant, now under new ownership, ticketholders can partake in special show night meal deals prior to the curtains, and return afterwards for dessert deals. Tickets are $28 adult, $20 for students and are available from the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.