I HATE HAMLET, Attic Playhouse. There are two kinds of people in show business: those who idolize Shakespeare and those who wonder why others do. Paul Rudnick’s comedy mocks both factions as well as east- and west-coast philistines and romantics young, old, and–well, dead. Our hero is a TV lightweight faced with playing the melancholy Dane–but his acting coach is none other than the ghost of John Barrymore. The clashing aesthetics end up affirming the actor’s craft, however, in all its ambivalence, audacity, and exhilaration.

Rudnick–himself an actor–has written six juicy characters. Under the animated direction of Carrie Lee Patterson, Jamie Axtell makes a mild-mannered Barrymore but holds his own against an ensemble who attack their roles with gusto, in particular Gary McNulty as a Hollywood greedhead, Barbara Stasiw as an aging coquette, and Caron Leigh as a psychic realtor. Also deserving mention is fight director John McFarland, whose rapier duel is so exciting it transcends the limitations of the Attic Playhouse’s tiny stage.