Show stopper

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead falls flat January 20, 2010

Filed under: theater — amandastrav @ 1:49 am
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I went to see the infamous play by Tom Stoppard with a few of my friends on Saturday, January 16. After the lights dimmed, I sat in my chair and wondered what just happened. My wonderments weren’t because the play was so fantastically mind-blowing, but that it was confusingly mind-blowing.

The play itself is a great concept. The story of Hamlet is told by two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, friends of Hamlet. They’re sent on a mission from Hamlet’s uncle king to find out what is troubling him. In the end, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are faced with taking Hamlet to England with a letter from his uncle ordering his death. Hamlet switches letters whilst the two are asleep, making his escape from the boat, and the king of England hangs the two.

I will give Belmont’s theatre group credit for attempting to sink their teeth into this difficult play. However, the point of sinking your teeth into something is being able to pull your teeth out, chew, and digest it. The group got their teeth stuck. The quick banter was too quick, especially when talking about probability and philosophical ideas. Am I saying they should’ve watered the play down? By no means, NO! I wish they would’ve conveyed what they spent their precious time memorizing a little clearer. The fast-talking Dan Hackman, Guildenstern, left me scratching my head. If he wasn’t blabbering about an abstract idea, he was pacing back and forth, making my head spin. I don’t even think he understood exactly what he was saying (in the context of philosophical and mathematical ideas). Hackman usually gives a great performance. He’s cool. He’s suave. But this performance just made him seem tired, as if he wanted to say what he had to say, do what he had to do and then get the heck out of there!

Ben Stonick, Rosencrantz, did better than Hackman. He was the comedian and kept my attention. Without him, I don’t think the play would be as okay as it was. Zach McCann was energetic as well as he played the player. He bounced and slinked around the stage in a wonderful fashion. When he entered, he was a breath of fresh air and only then did the play become somewhat interesting.

The players were too stiff. They overacted their minor parts walking a thin line bordering mediocrity and downright annoyance. I breathed a sigh of relief when they exited the stage. The play was better when they weren’t in the spotlight. 

Props do have to be given to Michael Rosenbaum as Hamlet. He was dark, mysterious and a joy to see. Even though he didn’t have very many lines, he took his role seriously. His eyes burned with passion and insanity. It was sensational, addicting; his performance was spot on. Rosenbaum has a true gift no matter what character he plays.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is a great play. I just don’t think Belmont’s students digested it as well as they could have. Some students walked out of the theater and expressed they enjoyed it but were confused most of the time. A good attempt but one, if tried again, should have a little more time to develop among the actors before a performance.