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Hamenstern & Guildenlet are dead, pt. 2

By | 2008-11-20T09:00:00-05:00 November 20th, 2008|Entertainment|

By Robert Bethune

Doing Stoppard is like doing Shaw – an avalanche of words that harden around you, and there’s no escape. The answer is movement, physical and mental – swim or die!
Director Joe Calarco keeps “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at Detroit’s Hilberry Theatre moving. Dylan Tuckey as Rosencrantz and Rob Pantano as Guidenstern keep up a desperate search for meaning, even while they slip into the void. Alan Ball as the Player is like Satan, always at their ears, cynically, grubbily seductive.
Here we are, at the back door into “Hamlet.” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are twice as sickly’d o’er by the pale cast of thought as any Dane; bits and pieces of “Hamlet” blow by them like a winter gale. They die of intrigue as if of lockjaw – an ironical death for two so full of words.
Jeffrey Strange’s set does double duty for this play and for “Hamlet,” and well repays the second viewing. Em Rossi’s costumes also do double duty, and the cast from the Hilberry’s “Hamlet” play the corresponding parts here.
However, it’s not the same “Hamlet.” It’s not just that some of the key “Hamlet” lines in this play are cut from the other “Hamlet.” Nor is it just appropriate differences in the way certain characters are played, particularly Polonius. It’s that Shakespeare and Stoppard are conversing across a chasm of nearly infinite width.
This “Hamlet” should not and does not make sense; that one does. Viewing the two plays together shows how little they connect. The common ground is fear, but Hamlet’s fear is terribly logical in a world where even madness has known nature and function. Stoppard puts Rosencrantz and Guildenstern through irrational terror in a world where they are not even flies that briefly hold the attention of wanton gods while they are killed for sport. The boot that crushes them barely knows their names. The true pairing for Stoppard isn’t Shakespeare, it’s Beckett. Wherever Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have gone, they’ve found Pozzo and Lucky waiting for them.
It’s a pleasure watching them go there.

‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’
Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave., Detroit. Plays in repertory through March 14. Tickets: $10-$30. For information: 313-577-2972 or

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.