The play is “Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern are Dead” and to understand what it’s all about, you have to be familiar with Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
If, however, you don’t really care what it’s all about, you will find the American Players Theatre production one of the funniest in years.
Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern are friends of a young Norwegian prince, Hamlet, played by Matt Schwader. Hamlet is, of course, the star of his own play, one that is not in the least bit funny in that almost everyone of any importance ends up dead, including Hamlet’s parents, Hamlet and, for good measure, Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern.
In this play, written by Thomas Stoppard and first performed in 1967, Rosenkrantz, played by Ryan Imhoff, and Gildenstern, played by Steve Haggard, start off on a confusing journey to England to carry a message from King Claudius (Jim DeVito). Claudius is, of course, the guy who murdered Hamlet’s father and married Hamlet’s mother, Deborah Staples.
Except, Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern don’t know quite where they are or what they’re doing. In fact, the whole operation is reminiscent of APT’s recent production of “Waiting for Godot,” just to put another obscure reference into the pot.
Oh, yeah. . .APT is also staging “Hamlet” this summer and Imhoff, Haggard, DeVito, Staples and Schwader all play the same roles in “Hamlet” that they do in “Rosenkrantz.”
Which, I admit, makes it all seem very in-group, but, in reality, the play stands on its own and is, as I said, very, very funny.
One special commendation, Jack Dwyer plays a small role, that of Alfred, a member of a comic acting troupe whose job it is to put on a skirt and be raped repeatedly – something that never really happens on screen but is referred to repeatedly. He does a great job of appearing absolutely miserable.