‘Hamlet,’ ‘Rosencrantz’ bring acclaimed Shakespeare to life

With traditional staging and high production values, audiences got to enjoy the works of Williams Shakespeare in their original forms. (Eric Muldoon | The Oswegonian)
With traditional staging and high production values, audiences got to enjoy the works of Williams Shakespeare in their original forms.
(Eric Muldoon | The Oswegonian)

The audience at Waterman Theatre roared with laughter last week during the performance of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” The Acting Company visited Oswego State and brought nothing but smiles and enjoyment to the viewers.

The set consisted of large, well-lit arcs that actors were able to use as entrances and exits throughout the show. The lighting design was by Greg Golf, who did an excellent job consistently lighting the actors, which helped the audience feel changes in emotion. The show was mostly funny, but the change in lights helped audience members re-focus their attention for moments that needed sympathy. Additionally, costumes were flattering because of the special attention of the light on the magnificently colored costumes by costume designer Candice Donnelly.

In the first scene we are introduced to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who are flipping coins. Once, the coin unintentionally rolled off the stage. The actors improvised, which made the audience laugh.

The use of language was easily one of the best parts of this play, which was written by Tom Stoppard. While it was clear that this was set in the era of Shakespeare, the patois was written in such a way that any English speaker would easily be able to understand.

Ian Gould played the role of Guildenstern, towering in height over his partner in crime, Rosencrantz, played by Grant Fletcher Prewitt.  The height difference made for some comical chemistry between the two. Both actors remained on stage for the entire two hour and 20 minute show, not including intermission. The actors fed off of each other’s energy like brothers, making the audience believe in their long-term friendship.

The traveling circus/theater band was another highlight, as they added jokes and a breath of fresh air, which was much-needed due to the consistency of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s presence on stage. The circus band, consisting of actors Joshua Johnston (son of Patti Lupone) as Alfred, Darien Battle as The Player, Robert David Grant as Tragedian (an actor who specializes in particular roles)/Guard and Laertes, Ernest Bentley as a tragedian and Horatio, and Suzy Kohane as a tragedian and English Ambassador.

Their costumes were mainly made up of beautiful hues of purples and yellow gold. Battle was excellent with his booming voice and command of the stage. He became a very likeable character and represented underlying political jabs, hinting at the prostitution and homosexuality that certainly existed during the 16th century.

Gertrude, the queen, played by Jacqueline Correa, by far had the best costume on stage. While Rosencrantz and Guildenstern wore everyday clothes, the queen appeared in a luscious corset that made her waist look extremely small.  Gertrude and Claudius, played by Patrick Lane, spoke with eloquent language, showing the hierarchy of power.

The intermission was much needed, as toward the end of Act I, a long scene ensued that dragged a bit. In Act II, the cast, with exception of Gertrude and Claudius, are on a boat to England. Fun antics ensue on the boat including a hilarious mock interpretation of Gertrude and Claudius’ sex life.

Next was a scene where pirates attacked the ship. It was lively and kept everyone’s attention, even though it seemed extremely out of place and unexplainable. Lane, in audition to the role of Claudius, plays the role of a pirate in this scene, as well as Correa, Angela Janas, who plays Ophelia, and Andy Nogasky, who plays Polonius.

Nogasky plays Polonius’ character as extremely old, hard of hearing, nearly disabled and extremely over exaggerated from the traditional role, a portrayal that made audience members laugh repeatedly.

The scene change to night was exquisite. The deep blue tarp had sparkling stars across it. Another excellent effect of the show was when we see Hamlet’s shadow writing a letter behind a screen.

While the show was overall light-hearted and funny, Gould and Prewitt did an excellent job of infusing the underlying life struggles like understanding death and the purpose of life or even enjoying the simplicity of completing a task that Stoppard intended with his thought-provoking play.

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