Fun House Theatre and Film
Director - Rene Moreno
Associate Director/Movement - Jeff Swearingen
Shakespeare Coach - JD Vineyard
Set Design/Scenic Painting - Clare Floyd DeVries
Carpentry - Dave Tenney
Lighting Design - Cheyney Coles
Rosencrantz - Jaxon Beeson
Guildenstern - Kennedy Waterman
The Player - Jeff Swearingen
Hamlet - Chris Rodenbaugh
Claudius - Doak Campbell Rapp
Gertrude - Madeleine Norton
Ophelia - Taylor Donnelson
Polonius - Josh LeBlanc
Alfred - Lizzy Greene
The Tragedians - Tex Patrello, Andy Stratton, Kennedy O'Kelley, Marisa Mendoza,
Jeremy LeBlanc, David Allen Norton, Laney Neumann, Karina Cunningham, Jake Allen
Photo credit Chuck Marcelo
Reviewed Performance 4/18/2014
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy that was first staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1966. The play has two characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who as very minor characters in Hamlet have no idea what is happening during this play. It explores the interactions of these two childhood friends of the Dane who are occasionally visited by characters from Hamlet.
The set was masterfully designed by Clare Floyd DeVries. The main color theme was a dark grey which was artfully combined to show a very monotone world of arches. To support the existentialism of the show, some arches were upside down and some stair-cases led straight to the ceiling in Escher-like fashion. This enhanced the concept of not knowing where they are or which way to go to get out, since the world of the play has no true direction and they never leave the stage.
Cheyney Coles’ lighting design effectively illuminated the actors throughout the production, staying at the same brightness while they are stuck in their world, yet portrayed the sun rising or setting during the appropriate scenes. At times the lights were dim to depict the interior of a ship. While simple, the lighting served its purpose.
The costuming, which wasn’t credited, was simple but very efficient. The majority of the cast wore some combination of black, white and gray. A select few characters – mostly those that speak in Hamlet – had more involved costumes. The Player wore a loose shirt and brown breeches, indicative of someone who worked and traveled a lot. The king wore an imperial-looking uniform of mostly black with red and gold accents, that helped him match the rest of the cast but still stand out. The queen looked regal in a form-fitting dress with elaborate hairdo and jewelry to show her rank. Altogether, the costuming in the show matched the mood of the play and helped to identify various characters.
Jaxon Beeson did an excellent job in his portrayal of Rosencrantz, the slightly less clever of the two main characters, though he still shares some very philosophical truths. The characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are very similar in nature; the Hamlet characters often confuse them, and many times throughout the show they con-fuse their own names. Theatre roles like this can be very difficult and I was impressed how well Beeson did for his age. He had a developed and clearly defined character that was interesting to see. There were times when his vocal levels were exactly the same with no real change in tone or tactics. Beeson had good expressions throughout the show, at times revealing bewilderment, excitement or fear. Other than being some-what monotone, he gave a great performance.
Kennedy Waterman was phenomenal in her portrayal of Guildenstern, the slightly more intelligent childhood friend of Hamlet. Waterman was enjoyable to watch, showing a good understanding of her character and how her role fit into the world that was created. She had very clear objectives throughout the performance, with an under-standing of the role that was a lot more advanced than her age. Waterman presented Guildenstern as a very reflective character and effectively showed her thoughts through her expression and moderate tone. Waterman had a lot of skill and potential to continue her development as a very talented actress.
Jeff Swearingen played the part of The Player, the leader of the Tragedians. Though he was only in a few scenes, Swearingen’s acting skills were in keeping with his character and added many fun comedic moments to his role. Swearingen’s Player is a more bawdy, cruder character, so Swearingen swaggered and posed when he was on stage to create a slapstick-style comedic role.
Chris Rodenbaugh played Hamlet as an intimidating and manipulative character. He portrayed a clear insanity that was both scary and intriguing. Several times, Rodenbaugh would say or do something crazy yet he would smile slyly, showing that Hamlet was manipulating those around him. I enjoyed his interactions with Rosen-crantz and Guildenstern and also the comedic moments when he was caught dragging corpses through the stage.
Claudius, the King of Denmark who is also Hamlet’s uncle and stepfather, was played by Doak Campbell Rapp. Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, was portrayed by Madeleine Nor-ton. They were both immaculately dressed and showed the appropriate level of aristocratic arrogance in keeping with their individual characters. Rapp’s character was pompous and always struck a particularly arrogant pose on stage. I appreciated how easy Rapp made it to understand his character’s motivation. Norton portrayed the queen, not as pompous but passionate, hanging onto the king whenever he was on stage and violently weeping at Hamlet’s madness. Together these two added variety to the characters in the play without overwhelming the lead characters.
Lizzy Greene portrayed the part of Alfred, the youngest and smallest of the Tragedians. She was comical in the role though I felt bad for her character at times since she was the one picked on the most by The Player throughout the show. Greene's expressions were truly well done, especially when she got into trouble with The Player. Though Greene had no lines, her face would go from wide-eyed fear to annoyance from being picked on to a stern look when she got even with the others on stage which was enjoyable to see.
The Tragedians, as portrayed by the rest of the cast, were intentionally overly dramatic, adding a fun dynamic to the play. As traveling actors, I especially appreciated their expressions and interactions when they were rehearsing “The Murder of Gonzago”. They didn’t speak but altered their expressions from their characters in the Gonzago play to annoyance at their play being interrupted, to excitement when they could begin their rehearsal again.
As a youth production, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was extremely well done, with a lot of talent onstage. It is well worth taking the time out of your week to at-tend this enjoyable production. The actors will definitely entertain as you experience the lives of two of Shakespeare’s minor roles who actually had something to say.
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
Fun House Theatre and Film
Plano Children's Theatre
1301 Custer Road
Plano, TX 75075
Performances run through April 26th.
Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 4:00 pm.
General Admission tickets are $8.00.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.funhousetheatreandfilm.com or call 972-357-5092.