Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead"

By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Rick Lombardo

Scenic Design by Richard Chambers
Lighting Design by Daniel Meeker
Costume Design by Kristin Loeffler
Music by Steven Barkhimer and Haddom Kime
Production Stage Manager Jessica Rae Chartoff

Rosencrantz..................................................Philip Patrone
Guildenstern.............................................Diego Arciniegas
The Player...................................................Jeremiah Kissel
Hamlet..............................................................John Kuntz
Player/Claudius.........................................Steve Barkhimer
Alfred/Ophelia............................................Birgit Huppuch
Player/Gertrude.......................................Doug Lockwood
Player/Polonius..................................................Ed Sorrell


What can you do in a theater watching something you know is screamingly funny when the sparse audience sits around you in stony, respectful silence? Tom Stoppard's first famous play is a literal avalanche of funny stuff, jokes and takes and schtick popping off in all directions like strings of firecrackers, and there onstage a crew of Boston's best actors are working their tails off rattling out some of the most complicated dialogue trippingly on their tongues, and --- nothing??? It felt as though the audience would come up to them after and say "You people were so funny I could hardly keep from smiling." If theater is a dialogue between audience and performers, comedy is impossible without laughs. Please, unless you're prepared to laugh, don't go see "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" at The New Rep. Rather no audience at all than a lifeless one.

Most of the people here have been doing excellent work here in Boston for some time now. Philip Patrone and Diego Arciniegas (who apparently have "Tweedle" written around the backs of their collars) are old friends standing toe to toe trying to fake each other out, dizzyingly inventive in their Shakespearean bloomers and slippered hose. They are all over the stage, and Director Rick Lombardo even has them peering at the abyss over the footlights or noticing the audience. Theirs is a textbook exercise in theatrical fun. Patrone does things with his face, Arciniegas with his voice, and both with their bodies and with prefect timing that you'll have to see to believe.

The band of strolling players these two meet on their way to Elsinore is headed by Jeremiah Kissel, another familiar face and beard about Boston. For him the line betwixt performance and life has blurred to non-existence, and --- among many others --- his observation that people believe only the theatrical portrayal of death, not the thing itself, is fascinatingly demonstrated.

Mad Hamlet here is another Boston star, John Kuntz --- perhaps our most versatile physical comedian. Lombardo has taken full advantage of his gaunt height, giving him a cadaverous hollow-eyed clown-white face staring out of a totally black costume. Kuntz has an uncanny ability to "flap" almost any part of his body as though he were made of boneless spaghetti.

The rest of the characters are both strolling-players who work in brown-paperbag masks when acting, and who double as Claudius (Steve Barkhimer), Gertrude Doug Lockwood), Ophelia (Birgit Huppuch), and Polonius. The last is another familiar Bostonian face, that of Ed Sorrell. These four do not only "The Murder of Gonzago" but a short version of "Hamlet" in surprisingly effective slow mime, just so the audience remains aware that there's a great tragedy being performed somewhere off-stage.

The stage, with Richard Chambers' tall pointed-arch backed by a corrugated-iron wall, all black and dramatically diagonally lit by Daniel Meeker, is full of surprises --- in particular two huge doors in deep-center that open on an ethereally blinding-white "other" from which the royalty of Elsinore enter, and into which the eventually dead R & G venture tentatively for the unexpectedly moving finale.

In truth, there is probably much too much here for any audience to "get" on the fly. Stoppard strews sophistries and syllogisms across the stage like philosophical pick-up-sticks, juggling pithy truths and quick jokes at mind-boggling speed and unending variety. It is a high compliment to this skilled, experienced cast that they get it all and deal with it all in continually fresh, inventive ways. I only hope that, on fuller evenings, more of that last indispensable member of the cast will pick up their cues and giggle a little.

Love,
===Anon.


"Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" (till 12 December)
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS
(617)332-1646

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |