Author: Beki Pineda

BOULDER MAGAZINE: Review: “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”

As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Sean Scrutchins and Michael Bouchard make a truly compatible duo, playing both against and with each other. 

Several years ago while attending the Telluride Film Festival, I had the unusual experience of seeing the film SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, starring Willem Defoe and John Malkovich. It was about the making of the first horror film—NOSFERATU—in 1922. It gave us a look at the bizarre behind-the-scenes incidents that happened because an actual vampire had been hired to play the lead. Early the next morning, I attended a screening of NOSFERATU itself. Seeing them in that order so close together created an unprecedented insight into the whole phenomenon.

I had the same experience recently at the Shakes by visiting ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN on opening night and revisiting HAMLET the next afternoon. I was obviously not alone in that experience, based on the spontaneous laughter that erupted from the audience when R&G appeared on stage for the first time in HAMLET. My fellow playgoers were remembering the boys’ confusion and dismay from the night before. We had had an insight into the events that propelled them to Elsinore and couldn’t help but laugh.

That was only one of the laughable moments gleaned from this sophisticated and gleeful production. Sean Scrutchins and Michael Bouchard make a truly compatible duo playing both against and with each other. They flip coins and ponder why they have been summoned to Elsinore but have only confusion as an answer. By the end of Act I, they have had their first meeting with Hamlet but are no less confounded than at the beginning of the play.

They follow to the letter the simple requests given them by the King and Gertrude: to accompany Hamlet to England and deliver a letter to the English King. They can’t understand why suddenly everyone seems against them and everything goes so terribly wrong. Why, for example, when they ask 27 questions in one speech, do they get only three answers back? The actors from HAMLET are on board to play out the scenes in which R&G are characters and contribute to their personal story as well.  

The script is sweetly reminiscent of Alan Ayckbourn’s HOUSE and GARDEN, a play that takes place on two stages simultaneously with the same cast. As one drama is going on in the house, the same actors are depicting a different situation in the garden. R&G observe that they “do on stage the stuff that others do off stage.” As they observe the story of Hamlet being acted out on the stage behind them, they become aware that “every exit is an entrance somewhere else.” Whether you see the current production of HAMLET or not, you’ll enjoy following the antics of two of classic Shakespeare’s most easily forgotten characters. 

The set is cleverly designed to service both productions by turning pieces around, so we see the backs of some of the flats used in the set of HAMLET. The trees so solidly planted for Hamlet are left to hang unused for the set of R&G. Stephen Jones designed the sets and lights to work for both productions, and Hugh Hanson made costumes that are also compatible for both shows.

WOW factor: 9

Upcoming CSF Events View all events

Twelfth Night

Loading
Jun 7-Aug 11, 2019

Twelfth Night

By William Shakespeare
Starting at $19

Ring in the summer season with an uproarious comedy about thorny love triangles, mistaken identities … and a pair of twins lost at sea. Wh...

As You Like It

Loading
Jun 21-Aug 10, 2019

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare
Starting at $18

After fleeing home to escape political persecution, Rosalind finds herself hiding in the countryside among a boisterous cast of characters, making une...

Romeo and Juliet

Loading
Jul 7-Aug 10, 2019

Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare
Starting at $18

From the moment Romeo and Juliet first meet, they fall passionately in love despite their families’ historic feud. The lovers’ oaths are s...

King Charles III

Loading
Jul 19-Aug 11, 2019

King Charles III

A future history play by Mike Bartlett
Starting at $17

In "King Charles III," playwright Mike Bartlett uses Shakespearean verse to envision a near future where personal privacy, public betrayals and a thre...

King John

Loading
Aug 4, 2019

King John

By William Shakespeare
Starting at $21

For one night only, see one of Shakespeare’s rarest history plays just as his own audiences did as part of CSF’s revered Original Practice...