"Rosencrantz, Guildenstern" Alive and Well at Theatre in the Round

A famous Shakespearean spin-off is alive and well on the U’s West Bank. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead first graced the stages of New York in 1967. The players of Theatre on the Round are once again gracing Minneapolis with this famed play.
To fully understand the play, not necessarily appreciate it, one must know the story of Hamlet. To simplify, the King of Denmark (also known as the father of Hamlet) is done wrong in numerous ways by his wife and brother, and for their actions Hamlet goes mad in his efforts to seek revenge. (Here’s a fuller synopsis.) Two characters are featured in this play by Shakespeare. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are college buddies of Hamlet, and have minor roles in the story.
Jewish playwright Tom Stoppard (born as Tomas Straussler in Czechoslovakia) saw the potential in these two characters, and created one of the most successful comedic spin-offs the theatre world has seen. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are called upon by Hamlet’s wrong-doing uncle to try and save Hamlet from his madness. Their adventure is delightful and humorous, with the two lead actors exhibiting great chemistry. Throughout the entire play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern confuse themselves and other actors with who is who. If an audience does not carefully follow the hilarious banter, one will indubitably also become confused. (Helpful tip: the actor that is actually Rosencrantz is the taller of the two actors, Connor Bohne.) Bohne shone in his performance. His portrayal of the dimwitted Rosencrantz came easily and whole-heartedly. Bohne received the most laughs by far, and his performance stands out as far more memorable than the others. It was obvious the other actors took delight in their roles and fulfilled them well with high spirits. The two leads make it easy to forget that Hamlet is the most famous character in this tale. Hamlet is merely a secondary character, although due to the plot he and his well-being are points of focus.
The play runs a little over two hours, not including a fifteen minute intermission. The first act runs slightly smoother than the second, the second being a little more discombobulated. The second act involved an elaborate storyline, a play within a play if you will, in true Shakespearean fashion. It’s hard to catch this if one becomes confused, but if a keen eye is kept, all is well. The language is friendly for all, not much is in the English of Shakespearean times. A few Shakespearean soliloquies are featured (mostly famed ones that Hamlet recites), but otherwise even children can keep up with the dialogue. The accents are well done and the timing is fast, but impeccable. (The second act would most likely also be extremely confusing for anyone who is not familiar with the story of Hamlet.) The costumes were accurate and impressive considering the performance was put on by a smaller theater.
Theatre in the Round itself is quaint, featuring an arena stage. The audience sits in circle stadium seats that surround a round, multi-level stage. The lack of background design and props allow the story to fully focus on the characters and their plight. The lack of background design may seem almost awkward to a patron of colorful drama, but such a performance really takes it all back to the purest forms of entertainment and drama. To see a play in such a way is refreshing, and really opens a thirst for the truest form of performance.
Tickets run at $20. On Fridays and Sundays, students (with ID) can purchase tickets for $10. Senior Citizens (62+) can receive $2 off a tickets on Fridays and Sundays as well. The play runs through October 3. On September 26, there will be an after show discussion led by the cast and the crew. Audience members are welcome to stay and participate in this unique opportunity. The discussion could be very advantageous and enlightening for any students who study Shakespeare, or any person who is generally interested.
The Missisippi rages on and the river Thames still runs wild, but the two water ways have both laid upon the lands of great Shakespearean performances. Catch this fine Shakespearean treasures before it skips town, leaving one to say: where are art thou have gone? Rosencrantz & Guildenstern runs until October 3 at the Theatre in the Round on West Bank.