Located in downtown Glendale’s shopping and dining district, Antaeus Theatre Company’s Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is an oasis of culture. Like Pasadena’s A Noise Within, Antaeus is no stodgy purveyor of classics. Shakespeare’s Hamlet as presented here through June 20, is shaken up and still stirring.
Bad things happen in Hamlet, including many deaths. It’s a tragedy not just because of those unfortunate developments, but because the characters don’t learn from their mistakes—especially Hamlet (the stupendous Ramón de Ocampo). He is unable to act rationally or expediently, instead giving long soliloquies debating how to respond to events real and perceived.
Hamlet is an emotional guy. Wracked with anger, guilt and an obsession with death, seeing the ghost of his father, he is unable to act righteously in avenging his father’s death, confronting his mother or marrying poor Ophelia. At every opportunity, he balks. De Ocampo brilliantly plays his own worst enemy in an aerobic performance.
Shakespeare’s longest play (here streamlined for an all-Antaeus cast of 10) contains some of the Bard’s most famous lines, from “Alas, poor Yorick,” to “To be or not to be.” Shakespeare is the king of double entendres and witticisms, here having Hamlet talk to Ophelia about lying his head in her lap and calling his uncle/stepfather Claudius “more than kin and less than kind.”
Besides De Ocampo, Peter Van Norden as Polonius stands out in a nuanced performance combining the classic with the contemporary, and Jeanne Syquia is heartbreaking as the wronged Ophelia. Veralyn Jones as Gertrude is indubitably queenly; her real-life husband Gregg T. Daniel is an appropriately murderous King Claudius.
Sally Hughes plays several roles, including Guildenstern and Fortinbras. This Hamlet’s shakeups in gender and race work well for the most part, but seeing Hughes close the show as the future king of Denmark feels jarring. Perhaps that’s the point. Michael Kirby as Laertes, Adam J. Smith as Horatio, Lloyd Roberson II as Rosencrantz and other roles and Joel Swetow in several roles round out the talented cast.
Director Elizabeth Swain, a Shakespearean expert, brings beautiful staging to a spare but spooky set by Stephen Gifford.
Hamlet from Antaeus Theatre runs through June 20 at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway in Glendale. Showtimes are Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm and Mondays at 8:00pm (dark May 30). Tickets are $40 and are available here. Parking is available for $9 at two municipal lots within a block or two: 115 North Artsakh Ave. and 120 Artsakh Ave. Proof of Covid vaccination and masking are required.