BWW Reviews: ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD - Perfect Comedy at New Orleans Shakespeare Fest.
The best way to describe ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD is to compare it to Disney's The Lion King 1 ½. The Lion King is loosely based on Shakespeare's HAMLET, and Simba's pals Timon and Pumba have often been associated with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In The Lion King 1 ½, the audience watches the story unfold from the perspectives of Timon and Pumba. Similarly, in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, the title characters enlighten their audience on their perspective of what was happening in Denmark. A prior knowledge of HAMLET makes this play much easier to understand.
The show opens with Rosencrantz (Brendan Bowen) and Guildenstern (Alex Ates) flipping coins and discussing reality. The two characters are unclear as to why they have been summoned by King Claudius who reveals he wants them to keep an eye on the supposedly insane Prince Hamlet. They eventually figure out that fate has complete control over what happens to them, and the troupe of players featured in HAMLET help them to realize that everyone who is born must eventually die. Their death is even foreshadowed in The Players' enactment of the 'Murder of Gonzago' that they perform for Claudius and Gertrude.
Later, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are sent to escort Prince Hamlet to England, they realize that they are escorting him to his death. In a scene that happens off-stage in HAMLET, the young prince switches out the letter with his death order that the two courtiers hold with a new letter that he has written which sentences his two companions to death. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern read the new letter, they wonder why their lives are so important or significant as to end in execution. They accept their fate, and the play closes with a scene from HAMLET in which it is announced that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
By far, the best part of this performance is the witty banter exchanged by the courtiers. At times it felt as though I was watching an Abbott and Costello bit, only instead of arguing about "who's on first" it was Guildenstern acting as Hamlet as Rosencrantz, acting as Guildenstern, asked "Hamlet" why he had gone mad. Confusing, right? Kudos to Bowen and Ates for their perfect comedic timing.
This show is appropriate for individuals high school aged and older. Two performances of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD remain: July 6th at 7:30pm and July 7th at 1:30pm. Call the Lupin Theater Box Office at (504) 865-5106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.