Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: A Comedy to Die For

Image Courtesy of SUU

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. That does not count as a spoiler since it’s the title of the play.

For those who are unaware of this play’s existence, don’t worry. The title characters of this show are actually two minor characters from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” How minor are they?  They have very little time on stage, are given what seems like an important task, are killed off stage and get a very small mention of being dead. The story seems like it can progress with or without them.

However, as the playwright Tom Stoppard shows in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” these two characters are more than plot devices; or are they? Even they do not seem to know or care half the time. The play follows the two leads through their time spent apart from the main cast of “Hamlet.” The audience gets to see their interactions with the nobility and their antics with the tragedians and the thoughts both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have about the situations they’ve been put into, as well as the circumstances that led to their untimely demise.

The SUU cast and crew capture this existentialist point of view to great effect in their performance of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”

In an interesting choice, the title characters have been gender swapped for this production.  Kenna Funk, a junior theatre arts major from Alturas, California, plays the emotional Rosencrantz and Bailey Smith, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Pullman, Washington, portrays the analytical Guildenstern. The two showed such amazing on-stage chemistry that their genders did not really matter. All that did matter was their compatibility. From the first lines, it is clear that they were the best of friends and were willing to help and play off the other.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are so close to people we know in reality. Whether the audience can see themselves as the emotionally inclined Rosencrantz or the more logical and philosophical Guildenstern, everyone has known or met someone who could remind them of these characters.

The comedic timing and blocking in the show was perfect. Joseph Price’s portrayal of The Player had the entire house rolling in the aisle every time he made an appearance. Although the comedy comes from the situation and the dialogue between characters, fans of witty exchanges and banter will be out of breath from laughter. However, for those who prefer a show that is more driven by action, it will feel like “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” moves at a snail’s pace.

This show really does make you feel like you are watching the side characters figure out their place while knowing that there is a bigger and better known story unfolding just off stage.

I would highly recommend this show to anyone who is looking for a good laugh, is a fan of “Hamlet” or just wants to see something a little different.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” will be performed in the Engelstad Theater on Sept. 29 and Oct. 2, 5- 7. Tickets are $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for students and children. All seating is general admission.

Story by
Carlee Jo Blumenthal