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