Danielle K. Jones as Ophelia and Leo Marks as Hamlet in the Theater 150 production of <em>Hamlet</em>.

EB Brooks and Jeremy Pivnick

Danielle K. Jones as Ophelia and Leo Marks as Hamlet in the Theater 150 production of Hamlet.

Hamlet at Ojai’s Theater 150, Saturday, July 18.

Production Marks Company’s Debut as Professional Equity Theater

The tricky thing about a play within a play is that it tends to break an audience’s suspension of disbelief, bringing them back to self-consciousness. “Oh yes,” one thinks as actors playing actors take the stage upon a stage, “Here I am, watching a play.” In the production of Hamlet directed by Jessica Kubzansky, currently playing at Ojai’s intimate Theater 150, this meta-voyeurism is further complicated by the fact that the audience is seated down two sides of the tiny black-box theater, effectively forced into roles as courtiers as the bloody tragedy at Elsinore unfolds.

As Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Leo Marks is less the brooding, introverted philosopher and more like a 21st-century tweaker, obsessed with the thought of avenging his father’s murder and operating at fever pitch for most of the three-hour play. Under Kubzansky’s direction, the play’s main characters have the volume turned up: The King’s advisor Polonius (Tim Cummings), commonly portrayed as an officious know-it-all, is in this production a big, intimidating fellow who bellows at his daughter, grabs her by the wrist and shakes her, and then clutches her to his breast like a remorseful wife-beater. Danielle K. Jones as Ophelia and Brendan Bradley as Laertes conjure a sweet filial affection; this Laertes is as fierce in his devotion as he is in his revenge.

EB Brooks and Jeremy Pivnick

From left to right: Lee Ann Manley as Gertrude, Leo Marks as Hamlet, and Paul Sulzman as Claudius.

Most unusual of all the character interpretations is Claudius (Paul Sulzman), who comes off not particularly villainous at all, but more like a well-intentioned leader who finds himself embroiled in a mess of his own making and seems genuinely sorry about it. In this way, Kubzansky’s production twists the 16th-century tale of full-blooded beastliness into something much more modern and psychologically nuanced. Even the costumes, designed by EB Brooks, are modern suits and jackets sliced, folded, and rearranged to approximate the shapes of period garments, but without any attempt to disguise their origins.

This production marks Theater 150’s premiere as a professional Equity theater company, and what better play to set the stage than this one, in which it is a play that spurs the characters to action, and replaces the pale cast of thought with the native hue of resolution.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Biggest Storm Since 1/9 Approaching Santa Barbara

The storm system brings increased threat of flash floods and debris flows.

Jack Johnson Tours Montecito Disaster Area Ahead of Benefit Concert

Jack and Kim Johnson met with Bucket Brigade leaders to see the destruction firsthand.

Iron Chef Caused State Street Pedestrian Death

Famous Chef Larry Forgione charged with misdemeanor for driving into Gilbert Ramirez on February 24.

Lavagnino’s Sudden Victory

5th District supervisor a shoo-in as filing window closes; Gregg Hart also unopposed for 2nd District.

One Half of Old Town Streets to Get Sidewalks

Walkways planned for one side of Goleta neighborhood streets; parking, lighting talks at community meeting March 22.