BWW Review: ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD - Redux In Rep With Hamlet At City Theatre
Tom Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD opened last week at City Theatre alongside Shakespeare's HAMLET in REDUX IN REP, both shows with the same cast on alternate nights.
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD premiered in 1966 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and made its way to Broadway in 1967. Stoppard's play has been most often compared to WAITING FOR GODOT, the Becket masterwork of absurdism, due to the two main characters who play mental games and discuss the meaning of their existence from various angles. The play begins with coin flips that inexplicably defeat the odds by always landing on heads. Rosencrantz (Clay Avery) Guildenstern (Dave Yakubik), minor characters in HAMLET, are the Dane's school fellows from Wittenberg. Mere plot devices in Shakespeare's tragedy, the duo are often confused as to exactly who they are or what they are doing. The plot follows its predecessor in the sequence of events, the main characters trying everything in their power to avoid their inevitable fate. Most of the action of this play takes place in an offstage world where other characters flow by on their way to the business of the original Elizabethan script. Stoppard is at his witty best writing rapid fire dialogue and ridiculous situations. The deconstruction of such an iconic play as seen through the eyes of its minor characters is splendid, even to those of us who have seen HAMLET dozens of times. By itself it is a difficult play to produce, requiring actors to be at the top of their game, but paired with HAMLET in repertory it is nothing short of a monumental feat.
City Theatre's production features two excellent actors in Clay Avery and Dave Yakubik in the title roles, though neither is certain which is Rosencrantz and which is Guildenstern. Avery's exuberant innocence is well matched by Yakubik's driven cynicism. The pair work with the circular logic within Stoppard's script keeping the pace moving swiftly. Other cast standouts include Mick D'arcy as the Player King who plays the role with a devilish gleam in his eye. Bobbie Oliver as the oversexed queen elicits laugh after laugh seeking attention from every male onstage. With only a few lines, it's Denver Surgener as Alfred, one of the traveling players, who steals the show every time he is on stage. Director Jeff Hinkle keeps the often freewheeling action under tight control and setting a nearly breathless pace. I found the show engaging and funny on its opening night and can only imagine that the show will smooth out any rough edges in its four week run.
I give my recommendation to ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at City Theatre. Tragedy paired with comedy rarely gets better.
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
by Tom Stoppard
Airport Blvd, Austin
March 10 - April 2
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with 2 intermissions
Tickets: $15 - $25, citytheatreaustin.org