Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Awesome

Another hurried post, no time to lose…is blogging a speed sport?  I seem to be going for some kind of record, but what the Hell, that’s what I have a record player for, right?  Zing!

What ho, spirited wordplay?  Yes, it can only mean one thing…I’ve just come from ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, courtesy of the good kids at Algonquin Theatre Arts.   And I hope the gang can forgive me some trepidation going into this one…Tom Stoppard’s classic comic take on Hamlet is an awfully wordy and ambitious piece to choose for a student production, and pulling it off would be no small cheese.  Thankfully, Ottawa Theatre Queen Mary Ellis was at the helm for this one, and I can safely say she’s steered her ship true.

The story fleshes out two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by unlikely names,  from Shakespeare’s HAMLET, making them the stars as they lurch somewhat uncomfortably along, swept up by fate towards a destiny they want no part of, and a seemingly predestined end that they don’t really seem to deserve.  Along they way, they contemplate words, time, direction, luck, questions…

Questions!  Oh, cruel fate!  Must you mock me so?  Must you constantly REMIND me of my FAILURE, and…and…

…sorry, that was a personal thing.  Where was I..?  Oh yes.  Questions…and death.  Their only friends (since their childhood chum Prince Hamlet is having a wee case of the crazies just now), such as they are, are a group of travelling tragedians who seem to only remind them of how helpless they are throughout.  If I’m making this sound heavy, it’s only my underlying pretentiousness seeping through.  It’s mostly hilarious.  Just very smart hilarious (usually the best kind).

The difficult central roles of R&G themselves are played by Jake William Smith  and Christine Hecker, and…and well, fuck it, just WOW.  Smith already impressed me mightily last year in May Can Theatre’s YOU ARE HERE, and he’s pretty much flawless here as the dim but amiable Rosencrantz (or is it..?)  And this is my first time seeing the lovely Ms.Hecker, and I hope it’s not the last.  Her Guildenstern (Rosencrantz?) never misses a comic beat, and makes a magnificent straight man to Smith.

Other good performances abound…Grant Hutchings and Hillary Downey impress in their short times onstage as Hamlet and Ophelia, and Jeremy Jones as the Player/troupe leader has great presence.  Ross Tundo’s Polonius, too, manages some very nifty scene-stealing.  Kudos to the whole gang.

The set is simple, and quite striking, and Mary Ellis’ directions seems as spot-on as you could ask for.  The final shot of the play is a thing of beauty, and no fooling.  I seriously had SUCH a good time at this show.  Tomorrow is the LAST day, and I want that place packed, see?  So read this, go see it, and then love it to pieces.  And then help me decide what I’m seeing tomorrow myself, because I have three things to pick between and I’m fucking torn.  But there ARE worse problems to have.  Peace, love and soul, Ottawa,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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