by Arnie Finkel

Tom Stoppard puts two minor characters from Shakespeare’s HAMLET front and center in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.   It’s an interesting concept.  What happens to these people while HAMLET is playing out its tragedy?

We find that these characters are so interchangeable that they themselves get confused as to who is which.  They do serve Stoppard as a mouthpiece to deliver messages and dialogues on death, art versus reality, the laws of probability and the meaning of life.   We are asked to consider who we are in the lives of others.

Forge Theatre’s production benefits greatly from Meghan Schulz as Rosencrantz.  Her performance is a joy to watch.  As Guildenstern, Jason Gagliardi is burdened with most of the heavy dialogue and handled it well.  He is a superb foil to Schulz.

Steve Schulz appears as the Lead Player in the traveling troupe of players Shakespeare uses in HAMLET.  He takes over the stage in each of his scenes and dies well – making it very funny.   The physical comedy the cast performs so well is a big plus.

Front (sitting)  L: Jason Gagliardi (Guildenstern) and R: Megan Schulz (Rosencrantz) Rear (with puppets) L:  Ryan Burgess and R: Jim Broyles in a scene from Forge Theatre's ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.

Front (sitting) L: Jason Gagliardi (Guildenstern) and R: Megan Schulz (Rosencrantz)
Rear (with puppets) L: Ryan Burgess and R: Jim Broyles in a scene from Forge Theatre’s ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.

Jay Reilly, Renee Schulz, Jim Broyles, Catherine Callahan, Leon Oboler and Ryan Burgess do yeoman’s work as the rest of the acting troupe, the cast of the off Stage HAMLET, puppeteers, and visible stagehands.  Special mention goes to Reilly whose Hamlet was very good.

The use of the puppets was a welcome addition by Director Diana Gagliardi, who also functioned as Technical Director.  The lighting and sound worked well for the production.  The decision to play Act I and Act II before the intermission made for a very long time to sit and made it difficult to concentrate on what was being said.

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN is a difficult play and Forge theatre is to be commended for including it in their season.

by Tom  Stoppard
Directed by Diana Gagliardi
April 19-May 4, 2013
Forge Theatre
243 1st Ave.
Phoenixville, PA 19460

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