Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is a play for those who love language and philosophy, and in the hands of director Michael Kimm, it’s also about physical comedy. There are so many things that have gone right with the College of Southern Nevada’s production that it’s hard to believe Kimm is a “mere” 28 years old. You’d think it would take decades of experience to put over the many levels of this difficult, absurdist tragic comedy.
Sean Critchfield and Adam Schaefer are our two title characters — you know, the friends in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” — who are constantly trying to figure out what is expected of them. They watch Hamlet (humorously overstated by Jason Nino) strolling by, sometimes with his girlfriend, sometimes with a dead body, and they have no idea what to do or what it all means. Their failure to take control and create their own meaning leads to their deaths.
Kimm has cast well. The two lead actors have vocal qualities that are always pleasant to listen to (lucky for us, since they rarely stop talking). In addition, their vocal and physical types complement one another.
A troupe of strolling players — led by the magnetic and understated Thomas Chrastka — becomes a pivotal part of our heroes’ lives, and they all seem to have been born of the same nightmare. Kimm gets some memorable performances from these actors (who have no lines) by creating uncanny precision in body movement and attitude.
In the second act, the philosophizing and wordplay gives way to some broad, physical comedy, and here, too, Kimm seems to know exactly how far too push. And in the end, when tragedy strikes, the director gives the action the perfect poetic flourishes.
The stage is set in full-round, and I’ve rarely seen a local director take such advantage of that setting. It doesn’t matter which section you sit in, the sightlines are superb.
Kimm’s set — a tile mosaic floor representing our characters’ tiny world, grounded by four barrels — is beautifully sparse and revealing, while Meda Braker’s costumes give the talkfest a needed feeling of spectacle.
This is a play that asks you to listen. But if you’re not in the mood, Kimm’s abilities with stage pictures, coarse humor and intriguing movement likely will do just as well.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.Review
What: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday;
2 p.m. Sunday
Where: College of Southern Nevada’s BackStage Theatre,
3200 E. Cheyenne Ave.
Tickets: $10-$12 (651-5483)