I Hate Hamlet

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I Hate Hamlet
Written byPaul Rudnick
CharactersAndrew Rally
John Barrymore
Lillian Troy
Felicia Dantine
Deirdre McDavey
Gary Peter Lefkowitz
Date premieredApril 8, 1991 (1991-04-08)
Place premieredWalter Kerr Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SettingNew York City

I Hate Hamlet is a comedy-drama written in 1991 by Paul Rudnick.


Set in John Barrymore's old apartment in New York City – at the time, the author's real-life home – the play follows successful television actor Andrew Rally as he struggles with taking on the dream role of Hamlet, dealing with a girlfriend who is keeping a firm grip on her chastity, and playing host to the ghost of John Barrymore, who, clothed as Hamlet, has come back to earth for the sole purpose of convincing Rally to play the part.[1] Real estate agent Felicia Dantine convinces Rally to stay in the apartment and hold a seance.

Barrymore proves to be very convincing (challenging Andrew to a sword fight in the middle of the New York loft), and Andrew decides to play Hamlet. But when a Hollywood friend shows up offering Andrew a new role in a television pilot, with a potentially large salary and fame, Andrew is forced to choose between Shakespeare, whom his girlfriend loves, or television, where he is loved by millions.[1]

Original production[edit]

The play was originally produced on Broadway in the Walter Kerr Theatre, opening on April 8, 1991.[2] The show was directed by Michael Engler, set design Tony Straiges, costume design Jane Greenwood, lighting design Paul Gallo, sound design , and fight choreography B. H. Barry. The cast starred Caroline Aaron (Felicia Dantine), Evan Handler (Andrew Rally), Jane Adams (Deirdre McDavey), Celeste Holm (Lillian Troy), Nicol Williamson (John Barrymore), and Adam Arkin (Gary Peter Leftkowitz).


Nicol Williamson, who played the role of John Barrymore in the initial Broadway production, was notoriously mercurial, and gradually alienated most of his fellow cast and crewmembers. This animosity culminated in an injury to co-star Evan Handler during an onstage sword fight.

Evan Handler, a co-star of "I Hate Hamlet," left the stage near the end of the first act Thursday night, gave his notice, and walked out of the Walter Kerr Theater. Mr. Handler's unplanned departure came after a dueling scene with Nicol Williamson, the play's star, who apparently ignored the choreography and struck Mr. Handler on the back with the flat part of his sword. Andrew Mutnick, Mr. Handler's understudy, finished the performance.[3]

Paul Rudnick later detailed Williamson's deterioration in a 2008 article for the New Yorker.[4]


Primary sources[edit]

  • Rudnick, Paul. I Hate Hamlet. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 1992. (Hard Copy of Play)
  • Rudnick, Paul. Personal History, "I Hit Hamlet," The New Yorker, December 24, 2007, p. 82


  1. ^ a b Townsquare Players. "I Hate Hamlet Plot Summary". Archived from the original on 25 August 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  2. ^ IBDb. "I Hate Hamlet from the Internet Broadway Database". Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  3. ^ Wichtel, Alex (4 May 1991). "'I Hate Hamlet' Co-Star Walks Out". New York Times. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  4. ^ The New Yorker (17 December 2007). "Paul Rudnick's New Yorker article on the production". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 January 2008.

External links[edit]