Friday, February 20, 2009

Play of the Week: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

This week we will feature Tom Stoppard's beloved play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Here we find a brilliant melding of brilliant dialogue reminiscent of Oscar Wilde, the existential crisis of Waiting for Godot, and, of course, a different look at Hamlet. This delightful comedy also provides some stark moments as the characters manage to cut through the farce and stare into the abyss of their situation.

Any Shakespeare aficionado will enjoy seeing the story of the Danish prince through the eyes of the tools Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. One of Stoppard's more ingenious inventions for the play is seeing Hamlet wandering through the stage and background talking or soliloquizing to himself.

But at the real heart of the play is the two title character's realization that they inhabit someone else's story. The play is not about them and they are merely plot points that enable someone else's life to play out. While they can never put their finger on the fact, they are uneasy through out this story. They explore this fact through clowning that is reminiscent of Beckett's pair of Didi and Gogo. Their first clue is the fact that no matter how many times they "spin" or flip a coin, the result is heads. While this monotony can be maddening to any audience member, we are forced to look at it through the character's eyes. While it is maddening for them to be caught in this loop of "heads," the realization become more and more ominous as they try to understand their importance. In the end they have no choice to give into their fate and face the void of their existence.

Take a moment to sit down with this play this weekend and see how Stoppard threads the two different plays together. See if you can find any other elements that he has woven into his canvas; there may be more.

Happy Birthday: Russell Crouse (1893-1966)

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