Presented by UCSB’s Naked Shakes. At UCSB’s Studio Theater, Thu., Sept. 6. Shows through Sept. 13 and Oct. 5-14.

In the first week after Labor Day, Santa Barbara’s hottest ticket was Hamlet. It’s true, those hot tickets were free, but that does not explain why on opening night, a Thursday, there were so many students and Shakespeare fans who couldn’t get in to the tiny black box of the Studio Theater at UCSB. Whatever the cause, everyone — except maybe those folks denied entry — should be happy that the word is out about Naked Shakes, UCSB’s summer Shakespeare program. Over the course of more than a decade, theater and dance department chair and Naked Shakes director Irwin Appel has been refining his approach and perfecting his staging techniques for getting outstanding performances from both experienced BFA students and nonmajors.

The Naked Shakes productions have been consistently excellent, and Hamlet is one of the best. Tadja Enos, who was so memorable as Catherine in last season’s UCSB production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, stars as Hamlet, with fellow BFA candidate Kody Siemensma opposite as Hamlet’s best friend, Horatio. You don’t have to know that the two played lovers in A View from the Bridge to recognize their powerful connection. The depth they bring to the play’s emotional center elevates the entire production, as do several other wonderful performances, including Taylor Tuers as a pale and radiant Ophelia and Roz Cornejo’s impressive and frequently hilarious Polonius. Associate director and movement specialist Daniel Stein contributed several elegant and witty solutions to the challenges presented by certain scenes. His design for the ghost of Hamlet’s father was entirely original and remarkably effective, especially when we saw Hamlet literally enclosed by the shadow of his dead parent. Congratulations to Tadja Enos for acting so well in that brilliant scene and for owning this iconic role.


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