Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a challenging and much-loved absurdist tragicomedy by Tom Stoppard, has had long runs and featured many famous actors. Fells Point Corner Theatre’s ambitious production, directed by Lance Bankerd, features excellent young actors (for the most part young) who presented a dynamic and physical display of their comedic talents that at times resembled Waiting for Godot and at other times Laurel and Hardy. With a set that showed what could be done with skulls and music that evoked The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they had the audience fully engaged and usually laughing.
Who would have thought that a comedy could be derived from the tragedy of Hamlet? And one which ends in the death of several primary characters, at that? In most other plays finding out that the main characters die in the end would have been a spoiler but here we are enchanted if not befuddled by the wordplay, reversals, conundrums, asides and apparently tangential witticisms that the end seems beyond the point. And of course, we all die in the end – right?
The named characters are in fact formerly minor characters in Hamlet’s (Dominic Gladden) story, about which these players have limited knowledge. They have been invited to help his uncle Claudius (Tom Piccin) deal with Hamlet’s increasing instability but have been left almost totally in the dark about what is going on and who the other characters are. We, the audience, who know more, watch them try to figure it out and sometimes just try to pass the time in philosophical debates and toss of the coin games while originally main characters drop in occasionally, giving cryptic clues as to what they want or know or intend to do. That can be very confusing, but that’s often how life is.
Gaya Sel’s set design is masterful and the costume design (by Deana Fisher and Maggie Flanigan) adds to the bizarre and whimsical quality of the play. Some of the characters are dressed to signify their role, while others, like Ophelia (Elizabeth Ung) flaunt costumes like bib overalls which seem absurd and amusing. The actors playing Rosencrantz (Logan Davidson) and Guildenstern (Matt Wetzel) have great rapport, utilizing terrific choreography and rapid-fire dialogue that puts forth the philosophical agenda without making the thrust of the play too serious.
I was very impressed with the quality of the performance.
Running Time: Two hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Additional credits: Assistant Director, Donna Ibale; Stage Manager, Shea Winpigler; Lighting Designer, Jessica Anderson; The Player, Bethany Mayo; Tragedian/Horatio, Michael Panzarotto; Tragedian/Alfred, Rory Kennison; Polonius, Thom Sinn; Gertrude, Kay-Megan Washington.