Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: Black Comedy in the Park

photo credit: Apollinaire Theatre Company

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
by Tom Stoppard

Apollinaire in the Park 2012

Performances run July 11-28 at 7:30,
in English on Wed. Thurs. & Sat. and Spanish on Fri. & Sun.
Mary O’Malley Park

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Chelsea, MA) In a twist on Shakespeare in the Park, the Apollinaire Theatre Company has chosen to perform a free production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead during the most gorgeous time of year. Each act is in a different location through out Mary O’Malley Park with the audience following the actors during intermission. The sunset, view of the river, docks, mural, and brilliant staging make a surprisingly fitting backdrop for Stoppard’s clever script.Rosencrantz/Guildenstern (Ronald Lacey) and Guildenstern/Rosencrantz (Sean A. Cote) are hilarious and quick as the titular characters, excelling wonderfully in their parts. No more than plot devices in Hamlet, the characters slowly come to terms with their disposability in their narrative.

In the tradition of Laurel and Hardy and Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, the duo compliment one another to comic effect. Lacey often plays the wary fool to Cote’s stubborn philosopher. Unlike most classic duos, however, their comedy is mostly meta. Their reversible names underscore their co-dependent relationship, both stuck with no one else who can or will help them. Even their costumes are identical, just reversed in color combination.

The only member of the cast who seems to be aware of their plight is The Player (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard). Even she, however, has her own part to worry about. Pausing her work and that of her acting troupe, who have their roles in Hamlet as well, wouldn’t be worth her time and would only delay the inevitable. Bedard’s Player is sharp and more cunning than the first act would suggest, an impressive presence in the show.

Hamlet’s original characters are largely relegated to the background. The plot lines of Ophelia (Maria Jose Velasquez), Claudius (Tony Dangerfield), and Gertrude (Mari Davila) are seen in glimpses, but these fragments are strong with the lifeblood of the original text. Even Stoppard’s comically anguished Hamlet (Christie Lee Gibson) isn’t changed very much from Shakespeare’s.

Performing in Mary O’Malley Park is wonderful but has some unfortunate complications. Attendees should make sure to check the weather in case coats or sunscreen is needed. Loud noises from the river or people accidentally walking by the “stage” were also common distractions through out the production I saw. The advantage of performing outside, though, and bringing Stoppard’s language to another world is still enormous fun and, if you have the opportunity to go, not to be missed.


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