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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Not Your Average Elizabeth Parody

Rosenwho and Guildenwhat?
TheatreZone
Rosenwho and Guildenwhat?

Imagine a world in which you are unwillingly thrust into odd situations where you are required to make judgments based on nothing but memory, instinct, and speculation – where you must wait for events to unfold themselves and reveal to you your next course of action. Sound familiar? Well, it should: it’s called life.

Inside the hole-in-the-wall Chelsea Theatre Works, located in Chelsea, oddly enough, TheatreZone is now showing their production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The play deals with the plot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet…sort of. Essentially, it is a retelling of Hamlet, but from the point of view of the Elizabethan tragedy’s two most insignificant characters: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s friends from school. These two bumbling but loveable German students (speaking in perfect English, naturally) gradually make their way to Hamlet’s castle in Denmark where they are forced by Hamlet’s uncle, the king, to discover what’s making the melancholy Dane so gosh darned melancholy in the first place. Then they are sent with Hamlet to England, where through a series of unfortunate events they…well, the title pretty much gives away the ending.

During their adventures, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played by Stephen Libby and Jason Dionne-or is it Jason Dionne and Stephen Libby? Honestly, I don’t know which one is Rosencrantz and which one is Guildenstern, and the pamphlet only listed that Rosencrantz was played by Stephen Libby and Guildenstern by Jason Dionne, but I had a hard time figuring out who was who. In fact, I don’t even know now, and neither do the two characters, which is part of the charm of this play. Anyways, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, or Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, are well aware that they are minor players in the events in which they are involved, a concept offset by a sexually ambiguous troupe of actors-turned-prostitutes who, with their bawdy gesturing and crude home-spun logic, underscore the futility of all the foolish assumptions and philosophic questions posed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

But despite their best efforts to exert some sort of control over the situation that they have stumbled into, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never have any real affect on the larger situation taking place around them (The Tragedy of Hamlet) but instead can only influence, micromanage even, their own immediate personal situation, a small movement inside of a much larger movement, as Rosencrantz or Guildenstern elegantly spoke towards the play’s finale. Through a metaphorical insinuation, Stoppard (with a little help from Waiting For Godot) attempts to show, through the absurdity of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s situation, the ridiculousness of the human condition in general. Or you know, whatever. Did I mention it’s a comedy?

But a good script ain’t nothin’ without good actors to do it justice, and the thespians over at TheatreZone do just that. Stephen Libby and Jason Dionne are an instant success as a comic duo, with all the chemistry of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, except without the singing and dancing. Eve Paselltiner came about as close to stealing the show as any of the actors could with her role as the leader of the ribald troupe of players. The supporting cast was flawless as anything I’d ever seen and there was not a dull one in the bunch.

If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud saucy evening at the theatre then I would highly recommend that you head over to Chelsea Theatre Works and take in a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead runs through March 12. Tickets are $18 at the door, $15 in advance or on Thursdays tickets are $12 at the door, $10 in advance. Call 617/887-2336 or go to www.theatrezone.org for more info.