You’ll love I Hate Hamlet, now at the Arts Center.

I don’t remember when I laughed this loud, this long or this often.  I Hate Hamlet is so much fun – and so many different kinds of fun – that describing doesn’t do it justice.  You just have to see it, now through February 24 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.  Ticket are at 843-842-ARTS (2787) or http://www.artshhi.com.

Full-service real estate broker, Felicia Diantine, summons the ghost of John Barrymore.

With only six characters, distinctive and well selected, I Hate Hamlet seems to charm the heart and fascinate the mind every time one of these characters enters the stage.  The brash real estate broker, the bemused TV star, his celibate girlfriend, his astute and elegant agent, the boisterous Hollywood producer with the 3-million-dollar deal – – and the ghost of John Barrymore, fabled womanizer and “the definitive Hamlet.”

Barrymore teaches Rally to stop “acting” – at the point of a sword.

James Donadio is so utterly convincing as Barrymore that we follow him easily from the legend and lothario we expect, to an unforeseen man of parts, honest in his weaknesses and willing to share his gift with an unsteady, though successful, actor of today.

When Donaldo’s Barrymore counsels Ethan Saks’ Andrew Rally before he heads to the stage, Donaldo’s performance of Shakespeare’s admonition to “Speak the speech . . . ,” from Act III Scene 2 of Hamlet, is generous, warm, encouraging – and as real as if he were thinking of it for the first time.

Barrymore and Lefkowitz battle for Rally’s future.

Brad DePlanche, as producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz, bursts with energy as he tempts the young TV star, Andrew Rally, to turn away from Shakespeare and sell his soul to Hollywood.  The choice is such a no-brainer to Lefkowitz that we are swept up in his enthusiasm.

Marina Re, as real estate broker Felicia Dantine, is the first voice we hear, and she’s irresistible, selling Andrew Rally on Barrymore’s former apartment, and holding the séance that brings back Barrymore’s ghost.  Rally’s romantic, unicorn-chasing girlfriend, Deirdre McDavey, played by Ameila Mathews, transforms from dreamy to voluptuous under the influence of the Barrymore ghost she never sees.

Jane Ridley plays Andrew Rally’s agent, Lillian Troy.  She is wise enough to

A fling beyond the stars – Barrymore and Lillian Troy waltz again.

land Andrew the role of Hamlet, authoritative enough to persuade him to take the risk – and experienced enough to be a former fling of Barrymore’s.  Their reunion, when it finally arrives, is heartwarming.

Director Russell Treyz seems to hand-craft the show, with taste and spirit.  It moves fast and wastes not a single motion.  The superb cast, too, is a tribute to Treyz.  Each of them has worked with him before and was eager to do so again.  Treyz’s inspired relationships are the reason this production was able to attract leading stage combat director Rick Sordelet, to choreograph the swordplay.

Fight director Rick Sordelet choreographed rapiers – and Dom Perignon.

Treyz commented that the story of an actor choosing art over commerce is what makes I Hate Hamlet special to him.  It’s a funny journey, though, and this is the cast, crew and director to get the most from it.  You’ll be very glad you came.

Sets and costumes are exceptional, as we’ve come to expect at the Arts Center on Hilton Head Island.  Beyond even that high standard, the Barrymore apartment is just right for a sword fight or a seduction.  And Diana Griffin’s costumes are perfectly articulate.  They can be as in-your-face as the real estate broker or as subtle and gauzy as the dreamy girlfriend.  They can even distinguish between the classic Hamlet of an earlier generation and the aspiring Hamlet of today.

I Hate Hamlet is an excellent choice for the Arts Center season.  And good shows don’t get produced any better than this one, anywhere.  It’s a treat.  Don’t miss it.  Call 843-842-ARTS (2787) or click http://www.artshhi.com.