By Riley Steffens ’22
Bellarmine’s spring 2019 production of I Hate Hamlet wowed audiences at the Black Box Theatre with its witty dialogue and incredible acting due to creative double casting. The two casts each consisted of three boys and three girls, with the roles in Cast A being traditionally cast and Cast B being gender swapped. This review will be of the closing performance featuring Cast B.
The gender swapped casting––featuring girls in male roles and boys in female roles––presented fantastic results. The Cast B leads were Ciara Ruiz-Earle (Presentation ’20) as Andrew Rally and Kyra Morris (Presentation ’21) as John Barrymore. Ella Nowinski (Notre Dame ’21) played narcissistic Hollywood agent Gary Peter Lefkowitz. Kai Shinozaki-Conefrey ’21 gave a great performance as Deirdre McDavey, Rally’s passionate yet chaste girlfriend. Michael Young ’21 played Felicia Dantine, a New York real estate agent and seance enthusiast, while Zen Chamberlain ’19 rounded out the cast as Lillian Troy, an elderly friend of Rally’s and former flame of Barrymore’s.
I Hate Hamlet takes place in mid-1990’s New York City and follows Andrew Rally, a television actor, as he decides whether to fulfill his newly acquired role, Hamlet, at Shakespeare in the Park. The entirety of the play is set in Rally’s apartment which formerly belonged to legendary Hamlet actor John Barrymore. The fun begins when an evening seance rouses the ghost of John Barrymore, who then proceeds to mentor Rally and encourage him to be the best Hamlet he can be.
The actors in Cast B were all equally fantastic in their roles. Each character was able to stand out and add great energy to the overall show. Although the actors were tasked with the challenge of playing the opposite gender, they made it look effortless. The whole production felt very seamless in this regard.
Mr. Jeremy Lum, director of I Hate Hamlet, discussed his inspiration for double casting with a gender-swapped cast and described the fascinating directing process. “[I] wanted to do something with Bellarmine’s Gender Justice Summit, and so this play I double-casted.” Due to the challenge of directing two casts, Mr. Lum was aided by student co-director Arash Shabany ’19. The two would hold separate rehearsals each day, then switched for the last thirty minutes to see what the other had done. He mentioned how this process effectively produced two different shows––Cast A’s show, and Cast B’s show.
Besides the gender-swapped cast, two things stood out about this show. First, the plot and dialogue moved at a great pace and were jam-packed with humor, making for a witty and enjoyable show. Second, the chemistry between the actors was incredible. It was the strength of their performances that really made the show so wonderful, as well as the intimacy of the stage. Set in a simple living room scene in Bellarmine’s Black Box Theatre, the play became much more connected to the audience and left us feeling the actors’ chemistry up close.
Overall, Bellarmine put on an amazing of production of I Hate Hamlet, a very humorous and entertaining show which was made memorable due to its double casting and phenomenal acting. Consider the satirization and defiance of gender norms that Cast A and Cast B hoped to achieve, definitely achieved.