Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead Presented By the Woodward Shakespeare Festival

Aug 17, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at the Woodward Shakespeare Festival
It’s like…
If you watch one of those food contests on TV where they give the chefs a strange set of ingredients and tell them to make something delicious, someone might tell the judges they have made a deconstructed dish, where the parts are disconnected and have to be mixed by the diner. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern is Tom Stoppard’s deconstructed Hamlet, pulling apart the Shakespeare masterwork and seeing what the audience will make of it.


Rosencrantz (Renee Newlove) and Guildenstern (Karina Rodriguez)

Hamlet isn’t the most important part of this play. It is centered on Rosencrantz (Renee Newlove) and Guildenstern (Karina Rodriguez), a pair of the Danish prince’s old schoolmates. They defy logic by tossing a coin heads-up more than probability would allow, play a verbal tennis game of questions, and are totally mystified by why they are there, what’s happening around them, and what will become of them. They blast their way through the absurdist dialogue at ludicrous speed. Accompanied by a troupe of actors, they wander through parts of the play within a play and the play of Hamlet itself.

Newlove is cheerful and blithe, while Rodriguez is driven and frustrated. It’s like Pinky and the Brain from Animaniacs, without the snarfing. They played the same roles in this summer’s Hamlet, acting as women in female garb, in this they are dressed as men and act as men. Their waistcoats are plush, vaguely Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum-ish. Costumer Celeste Johnson manages to slip in a nod to their previous set of costumes. The words zoom past, the contradictions pile up, and confusion is their watchword. theatre

Greg Taber is smug as the Player, leader of the tragedians, who manipulates R&G into acting out scenes as if it was their reality, which is the reality of Shakespeare’s version. He swoops across the Festival stage in a starry coat of deep blues, commanding and cajoling. Broderic Beard becomes Hamlet, again, but less melancholy. His outfit flares and swirls. At times, the tragedian he plays ambles about as if in the cast of The Rocky Horror Show. You see, he’s not really Hamlet; he’s an actor playing Hamlet. All these characters are actors first, characters second…or third. Sometimes, it helps to have a working knowledge of Shakespeare’s work; at other times, it just gets in the way.

Joshua Taber is solemn when playing the usurping King Claudius. Kayla M. Weber is a gentle Queen Gertrude. Victoria Lichti repeats as Ophelia, less to do and with less to say, unfortunately.

Before the show begins, performers circulate among the audience and on the stage, entertaining with juggling, swordplay, and a Shakespearean interpretation of Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First.”



Newlove says, “This is a play that should be seen several times.” If you do, you might understand the show better, or at least have a better understanding of yourself. The show runs Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. until September 10. The play is free, but car entry to the park is $5. For more information, go to their website for more information, or call 559-927-3485.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public’s information needs.


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