By Margaret Adams
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the latest Mimes and Mummers production, graced the Collins Auditorium stage from Oct. 2 to 5. The play, written by Tom Stoppard and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1966, is told from the perspective of two “minor” characters from Hamlet: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Therefore, no matter how many times you have seen, read or watched Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is unlike any version you know. The production offered a truly unique viewing experience. From the juxtaposition of conversations and medieval doublets to the artistic interpretation of Shakespeare’s original scenes, it was an exceptional and artistic retelling of the well-known tragedy.
The most intriguing aspect of the play was the audience’s position. Director Rory Pelsue opted to have the audience sit on the stage, while the action took place on the edge of the stage and in between the auditorium seats. Just as the play itself offered a backstage view of Hamlet, the seating arrangement offered the audience a backstage view of the action. As Pelsue wrote in his letter to the audience, “I thought it would be interesting to flip the perspective of the playing space just as Stoppard flips the perspective of Hamlet by focusing on the hapless and slightly under-written friends of the famously complex Prince of Denmark.”
Philip Reilley, FCRH ’15, said, “I haven’t seen the Mimes do a show where they used the entire house… someone who knows how much work goes into putting on shows, I know that the crew must have put in many hours of work to get the many technical aspects of the show, such as lighting, right. So hats off to them!” Overall, I think the entire audience would agree that the director excellently accomplished his goal.
Although the cast was surprisingly small, the actors brought amazing depth to their characters. AJ Golio, FCRH ’16, played the easy-going Rosencrantz (or was it Guildenstern…?) perfectly. The entire audience was moved by Rosencrantz’s sweet attempts to cheer his friend, and Golio expertly navigated Rosencrantz’s development from an easily-confused character to one who experiences real terror at the thought of his own death. Michael Brown, FCRH ’16, who played the philosophical and quick-witted Guildenstern, effortlessly delivered the clever lines with impeccable comedic timing. In addition, Golio and Brown worked well with each other, and the friendship flowed easily between them and their characters. Krystin Vitale, FCRH ‘16, summed it up well by saying they were “brilliant, and they completely held the audience in the palm of their hands.”
The Tragedians, led by Amy Palen, FCRH ’16, as The Player, offered punches of humor and helped move the story along. Palen’s dramatic flair was perfect for the role, and she delivered the clever and sharp lines of The Player effortlessly. The motley crew of Tragedians was funny, dramatic and just a little bit outrageous — exactly as they should be. Of course, the classic characters from Shakespeare’s play made appearances: Collin Wright, GSB ’16, played the moody Hamlet well. Nick Motlenski, FCRH ’16, commanded the stage as Claudius, and Jake Benoit, FCRH ’17, portrayed the self-absorbed Polonius with just the right amount of comedy. Anna Smutney’s, FCRH ‘17, Gertrude and Cat Gallagher’s, FCRH ’17, Ophelia were significantly smaller parts in this retelling of Hamlet than in the original, but they were still completely memorable.
From the music to the costumes and from the staging to the acting, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was an exceptional production. The clever and cunning dialogue kept the audience’s attention throughout, and every single actor was outstanding and unforgettable. If you didn’t get to see this production, be sure to see The Mimes and Mummers’ next production of Spamalot, Nov. 13 to 16.
Margaret Adams is a Staff Writer for The Fordham Ram.