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A funny ghost story

Hamlet and his ghost take on comic personas in Paul Rudnick's "I Hate Hamlet," opening Friday, Aug. 13, at Camelot Theatre in Talent.

Rudnick's ghost story centers around up-and-coming actor Andrew Rally — the star of a recently canceled television series who's relocated to New York City. Rally is less than pleased that he's been cast in the lead role of a staged version of "Hamlet," away from the glitter of Hollywood.

His discontent deepens when he finds his new apartment is an old brownstone full of Gothic trappings that once belonged to the legendary stage actor John Barrymore. When Barrymore's tutelary spirit arrives at the apartment — in full costume and intoxication — a wildly funny contrast of opposite natures ensues.

The show will open Friday, Aug. 13, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave. A preview performance is set for Thursday, Aug. 12. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 12. There will be a pay-what-you-can performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18. Reservations are recommended.

"Barrymore gained fame as a stage actor for his grand portrayals of Hamlet and Richard III during the 1920s," says Don Matthews, who plays Barrymore's ghost in the Camelot production. "He also had a reputation for hard living. Rally and his ghost have two very different ideas of what acting ought to be. The younger actor likes a natural style, while Barrymore's style was presentational."

Rudnick was inspired to write "I Hate Hamlet" when he answered an ad in The New York Times' real estate section for an apartment that had been occupied by Barrymore in 1917. The comedy premiered in 1991 at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway.

Matthews says he's having a lot of fun with the Barrymore role at Camelot.

"I have permission to be a little bit bigger than life," Matthews says. "Barrymore's style was old-fashioned, but he gave audiences a more human side of the character. He realized there was truth in what he was doing, and he really felt it.

"Though Barrymore was a womanizer and a drunk, the character in 'I Hate Hamlet' has moments of realizing his own missed opportunities. He sees a chance to help the young Rally (played by Davyin Tuchiano) not make the same mistakes."

Rudnick's script stays intact during the Camelot production, though a couple of references have been localized.

"It's a riot," Matthews says. "There are quotes from Hamlet and other plays by Shakespeare that echo through it. It's essentially a ghost story."

The play's cast of six characters also includes Tai Sammons, Judith Rosen, Roy Rains and Jade Chavis Watt. Doug Warners directs. Costumes are by Barbara Rains, set and properties by Don Zastoupil, lighting is by Bart Grady and audio and video design by Brian O'Connor.

Tickets cost $10 for the preview on Thursday, Aug. 12. Tickets to all other performances cost $18, $16 for students and seniors. Reserved seating is available for an additional $2 per ticket.

Tickets are available at the Camelot Theatre box office from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances, by calling 541-535-5250 or online at www.CamelotTheatre.org.