First produced at London's Old Vic Theatre in 1967, this early Stoppard play contains most of the familiar elements of his later works: the intricate, and one might say interminable word-play, the ruminations on life and death, the narrow line between comedy and tragedy, the literary allusions, and so on.
This is an enjoyable enough play, but its length (two hours and 20 minutes) could easily have been cut to 90 minutes. The first scene, amusing enough as the two protagonists toss a coin to see how often it turns up heads, just goes on and on and on, as do other scenes and situations that would all have greatly benefited from trimming, if not cutting. So much for the play. The good news is that the John Montgomery company served the play admirably. Their attractive little playhouse of 30 seats, good lighting and sound, really fine costumes, and a talented ensemble cast with no obvious weaknesses presented ``such stuff as dreams are made on,'' an evening that set the highest standards for Off-Off-Broadway productions.
Director Collette Duvall moved the play along at a spanking trot, and the cast around very well on the small stage; particularly effective was a short pirate raid on the ship in the last act (Russ Hamilton, fight Choreographer). Ms. Duvall obtained excellent performances from Russ Hamilton and Patric Hillan as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, respectively. Hillan was particularly fine, and his line readings, often at break-neck speed (for he drives the play), were always clear, and his timing was impeccable. Hamilton was a splendid foil, and in fact the two of them worked beautifully together, especially in the Godot-like scenes of ``a hundred decisions and indecisions'' that were evidence of Stoppard's debt to Becket. Tucker McCrady did wonderful work as the Player. He showed a fine sense of style, a lovely voice, and excellent technique. Ken Schatz was a delightful, funny little Hamlet whose explosive rages surprised but also demonstrated his vocal power.
Good work, too, from all the other six cast members, who, in much smaller roles, completed this fine team: Steve Mize (Alfred and Soldier; Ed Chemaly (Claudius and Tragedian); Jarel Davidow (Polonius and Tragedian); Barbara Hentschel (Ophelia); Sidney Fortner (Gertrude, as well as being the designer of the lovely costumes). Lighting was fine (Jessie); minimal sets were imaginative (Bob Celi); and sound was very effective (Bryant Falk). Bravo to all concerned.
Copyright 1996 Dudley Stone
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