What does it feel like to not be the star in your own story? To sense that you’re a peripheral and ill-informed character in someone else’s much-more-profound mystery?
That’s a circumstance that
we all—I mean, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—face, and Anon It Moves has spent the last month putting it across as eloquently as Tom Stoppard penned it, fittingly in rep with the company’s female-fronted Hamlet. This weekend (starting tonight) is your last chances to catch the show(s).
Stoppard’s R&G is to rhetoric, reasoning and inflection what one of Bach’s etudes is to music. It’s practice for its own sake, playfulness with the difficulty of the medium that usually resolves by finishing where it started. Why are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern here? They can’t decide, so they depart. Why are they alive? They can’t figure that out, so they die. Stoppard’s comments on Israel, redistribution of wealth, and “love, blood, and rhetoric” all boiling down to blood bring further immediacy, discomfort, and inconclusive scrutiny to the story. Heads/tails. Pros/cons. Actors/…whores? If R&G leaves you satisfied, you’ve misconstrued it. But happily, Anon It Moves shows mastery at the rhetorical recital.
Joel Patrick Durham as Rosencrantz is a big baby in the best way, wide-eyed and shruggingly trusting. Caitlin Fisher-Draeger is equally convincing as the pair’s self-appointed philosopher and protector Guildenstern. Just like Hamlet, Draeger plays the role female rather than posturing its written gender, which lends her a big-sister, babysitter authority. While she’s wagging an index finger, testing the direction of the real and metaphorical wind, he’s gazing on in resigned wonder. The pairing makes a welcome variation on the Lenny-George dynamic that happens when both roles are played by men, and in a script which mocks the two characters’ interchangeability, this version quite thoroughly distinguishes one from the other. (Note: another existential bro-sis play on now at Coho is The Sweatermakers. Read a review.)
The troupe of players-within-the-play, bit parts in Hamlet, get a lot more spotlight in R&G, and Paul Susi, their spokesman, gets to expound on the charisma and versatility he shows in Hamlet as the sandwich-waving, tragicomic grave digger. Here, he’s even more humorous, and even more ominous. In life, Susi is also a playwright (Read a review of his play about single adult housemates, All at Sea, at Bodyvox last season.), and an at-risk youth advocate. His characters’ comments comparing theater and sex trafficking/survival have a chilling immediacy, exuding what seems like legitimate real-life insight both topics. He’s an excellent focal point for the (almost line-less) other players to mug and mime against, and they rise to the darkly comic challenge.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead shows Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 at Zoomtopia on SE 8th and Morrison.