& Guildenstern are Dead
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Igor Morozov
Presented by United Players of Vancouver
Plays Feb 5th - 28th
by Frank C. Scott
Why are we here? What is our purpose? Should we go this way or that way? Do we have control of our destiny or are we all just bit comedic players in the much bigger tragedy called life? These are the questions that internationally renowned playwright Tom Stoppard presents with his very serious comedy, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.
Stoppard has a reputation as a writer of serious comedy. His writing style asks complex and philosophical questions yet laughs at the seriousness they represent through the use of witty puns, innuendo, and visual humor. This play focuses on the action of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" through the eyes of two of its minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. We follow this hapless pair as they journey through the events of "Hamlet". Confused and bewildered, the pair tries to make sense of a world they do not understand or control.
In trying to find direction and meaning to a life not of their own making, the ideas of fate and free will are examined. Hence their dilemma ends up talking to us all.
The United Players of Vancouver managed to pull off this difficult play with some success, but at times left their audience confused. I overheard many a conversation during the intermission where people questioned the significance of various scenes. Part of this I feel was due to the non-existent set, which consisted only of a three foot wide runway between two seating areas. Depending where you were seated ,sometimes you were completely obscured from the action. At one point the person sitting next to me and I had to stand to see the action. Making the play area a three-foot wide strip between the audience and placing the audience so close to the play area was very distracting. I felt that at times the performers felt at odds with the audience's close proximity.
Igor Morozov, the director of this cast of twelve, seemed to hit and miss with his direction. The audience responded with polite laughter only on a couple of occasions, and seemed uncomfortably silent throughout most of the evening. The play's success falls into the hands of its three main storytellers, Rosencrantz (Kevin Spenst), Guildenstern (David Young), and Player (Andrew McBeth). Of the three McBeth seemed to offer the better of performances but all three provided entertainment and deserve credit.
It should also be noted that Tom Stoppard could spot a good thing when he sees it. When he wrote Rosencrantz & Guildenstern back in 1964, it helped launch his career. Thirty-five years later he is still using Shakespeare as a vehicle for his writing. He and co-author Marc Norman are currently vying for an Oscar for their screenplay "Shakespeare in Love".