Guildenstern Play CritiqueKatrin Bachmeier
Intro to Theatre 1131-01
Do you want to play Questions?
Tom Stoppard’s, “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” was directed and produced by Michael Robertson, in a two act show performed at the Whitney Fine Arts Theatre on Loring Park. Colored and patterned with existentialism and feelings of absurdity, the two main characters Rosencrantz (played by Michael Snyder) and Guildenstern (played by Kyle Bowe) emerge and encounter a world where their meaning is arbitrary and where they become victims of seemingly random circumstances they neither proscribe nor control.
The set (tastefully created by Rick Polenek) was simple, abstract, and somewhat bare. There were many levels, a center raised disk, (which is where the excerpts from Hamlet’s court Colin Healy, Katrin Bachmeier, Mathew Falk, Jane Davich, and Jack Fits within the play were enacted) and an Elizabethan mood which left a great deal of leeway for the lighting designer (operated by Jocelyn Shackelford) to be creative. The raised disk created a sense of distance between the stage for the court, and Roz and Guil- Here, they find themselves in an “un-, sub, or supernatural world” where they are forced to adopt a role or embrace a fate which has been sealed by another author (Shakespeare).
Shackelford took advantage of this opportunity and brought is some gobo lighting such as a window shadow in the background of the court scenes. Dustin Smith played classical guitar during the performance which added a delightful element and tone to the production.
With many references to Becket, this existential/theatre of absurd… “thrives to express its sense of senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought.” -Stoppard.
“Do you want to play questions” is one of the most memorable scenes from the show. During this dialogue, Roz and Guil run out into the audience- breaking the aesthetic distance between themselves and the audience and ask each other questions related to the contingent nature of man’s existence. The audience was particularly amused during this incident, and when Roz and Guil left the stage once again to grab their programs and announce their ambiguity toward the intermission that was soon to follow.
Bob Amaden did a wonderful job portraying the “Player” another main character. He’s the “man in charge” so to speak. Directing the Tragedians, (a small traveling acting group, common to the Elizabethen/Renaizance era) comically depicted by Jesse Starbuck- ( Alfred), Katie Lynn, Tyler Christian-Dahl, Mathew Falk, and Katrin Bachmeier- (who also plays Ophelia, Hamlet’s love) Bob’s charisma and stature make the show.
In the world which they inhibit, there doesn’t seem to be a firm line drawn between life and death, the latter is merely an exit, casual, unexciting, as insignificant as the details of the lives they live. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern simply disappear. Are they dead? Will they return to repeat the experience next time? We don’t really know. But what is so trivial anyway that, they have died a long time ago. In a very real sense, Roz and Guil is a prime example of what Nietzsche calls the “last men,” the living dead, as inauthentic and non-human as it is possible to get.
That we get it and they don’t is the point. But watching them try to get it make for a very very fun ride. The linguistic acrobatics, sexual innuendos and near intellectual misses throughought the play intrigued and humored me greatly. Snyder and Bowe…Bowe and gentle Snyder do a fantastic job making two “nothing” characters fun and likable (almost) something.