Nightingale Theatre production worth trek, bearing with the heat.
By MICHAEL SMITH World Entertainment Writer 8/21/00
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are fools, lovable losers if you will, and really a lot like innocent children when you think about it.
And that's why "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." It's quite amazing that they lived as long as they did in their version of the world, but in doing so they assisted Tom Stoppard in creating a tremendously clever comedy that pokes fun at the Bard and indecisive people everywhere.
A production presented Friday night at the Nightingale Theater was also cleverly delivered, with several hearty laughs and fine performances to recommend from it. Now if only it were October.
Two plays opened this weekend in Tulsa, both with a Shakespearean bent -- American Theater Company's "Twelfth Night" and this marvelous Stoppard play from Taurus Productions in association with Midwestern Theater Troupe. Both are quite good and deserving of large audiences to enjoy them. But audiences should be forewarned of all the conditions present before they make the trek.
ATC's outdoor show is detailed in a separate review. "Rosencrantz," meanwhile, was presented inside on Friday, which was actually a detriment. The warehouse that is Nightingale Theater was not air-conditioned, but there were plenty of cool breezes just outside the front door on a night where the temperature mercifully dropped 20 degrees in 24 hours. Two small fans whirred inside, and fans to be hand-driven were supplied on each seat. A bit of relief was offered to make it feel less like an oven.
Bottom line: It's been said that artists should suffer for their art, but must the audience as well?
Dale Sams serves as producer, director and co-star (Rosencrantz) and proves himself capable of many tasks in this existentialist take on "Hamlet," seen through the eyes of the two most inconsequential characters in Shakespeare's tragedy.
Sams is lucky to have as his on-stage sounding board an excellent partner in Suzanne Sanders, whose wonderfully expressive face and rat-a-tat-tat vocal delivery lights up the two-hour play that is largely a talk between two friends who can't comprehend what's going on around them.
Things are falling apart at Elsinore Castle, and the pair have become a part of the conspiracy: They are to play roles in the assassination of Hamlet, their boyhood compadre. But these two have no idea how to proceed with any task.
They rarely can remember which one of them is which, much less what purpose they are to serve.
"There must have been a moment, at the beginning, when we could have said...No," Guildenstern says, resigned to her fate. "But somehow we missed it." They are characters in a play, but they can't see it. While other characters can figuratively see the puppet strings manipulating their actions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are oblivious -- and easily manipulated by others, eventually into their deaths.
But along the way, it's quite a ride. In their travels, they meet many of the principals of Hamlet, including Scott Heberling having a great time chewing up scenery as the Dane himself and Craig Walters as a wonderfully understated Polonius amidst all this madness and death.
Our title players also encounter the merry band of entertainers known as the Tragedians, and Thomas Watts is a fabulous standout as Alfred.
This was the first full-length play written by Tom Stoppard ("The Real Thing" and screenplay for "Shakespeare in Love") and it is still one of his best. The players in this Taurus/Midwestern co-production are an exceptional bunch of troupers who never seemed to let the heat get to them.
"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" continues with 8 p.m. performances Thursday through Saturday at the Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St. Tickets are available with a donation of $5 or more at the door, and more information is available by calling 583-8487 [As of February 2007, 633-8666].
Michael Smith, World entertainment writer, can be reached at 581-8474 or via e-mail at email@example.com.