Time, like confetti made shredding documents before the run toward composting, renders its space unto a void. There we wait to see if memory serves, or if memory falls apart inside the apathy of watching someone else’s story take centre stage.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead starts off with the titular characters flipping heads over tails on the many endless coins that feed out of a pouch. The lack of random draw sets up the notion that things are either predetermined or previously set in motion by external forces. Not that they know of it. It is a standard for normal to be in the thick of it and fail to realise there is more to being. Which in itself is the main question.
Having little more to do than think and wait for glimpses of an unconcerned Hamlet (Thomas Alvey) walking in and out of their lives, Rosencrantz (Keifer Adkins) and Guildenstern (Steve Cleberg) build their time with layers of paranoia and an interested thirst in what is even going on while having no certain clue about anything. Words fly by in argument, conjecture, proposition and a mathematical intensity that tears on to unmask the tenuous relationship we all have with each other. The one where everyone is a side character to someone else’s life and we’re all here as talking furniture.
Beat by beat they unravel. They pry apart the nature of the universe and stare harried into its eyes. Both take the journey with degrees of hair falling out of composure. Guildenstern is the slightly measured one keeping it all inside. Rosencrantz wears it on the sleeve, frazzle dazzle, life is a revelation of the fatalistic rip tide we are all pulled under. There is no swimming across the break. And they both break in the end.
Sanity dissolves the more the pair talk amongst themselves. There within the pocket of their side universe, looking on and around as they are looked around on themselves, it is a delirium. From one turn of the loquacious it flips quick and all sounds sounds as if it’s all rambling for the sake of grasping at the ledges as gravity pulls us under. At times it is hard to make sense of. Most of the other times it’s just understanding that knowing too much is going to be a head-scratcher.
Side-stepping into frame, Player (Sommer Schoch) & Alfred (Theresa Jean Kibby) provide a sense of anchor to the world. They appear to exist on both a meta narrative level as well as participant characters, like those one or two friends in real life that appear to know what is going on, because someone has to have a clue here. Even if they don’t, at least someone out there hints at an understanding of the struggle of being bit players to your own story. Player prances about with a confident grace as Alfred rollicks with a ramshackle of puppetry as the pair dispel their own rumour when the weighted coin comes flipping back through the air. Always question the semblance of knowledge of self-appointed authority when the world is a maddening state of disrepair.
A host of other characters dart through featuring Claudius (Martha Pratt), Gertrude (Carol Rogers), Ophelia (Bailey Patterson) and Polonius (Tyler Harting) all together in separate dialogues pushing a sense of these other side characters existing one step away. First we have the focus, then we have the reflection, now we have the reverb. Between these three elements we are deliberately lost in the scheme and locus. We are after all walking down a hall of angled mirrors.
In one scene the titular pair chase themselves under cover on a boat or vessel with barrels, dodging the question of reality and consequences. So fixated now on understanding what is going on they have lost all meaning and drive to their own journey. With teeth skinned, they wait ever more to see what fate unfolds for them, as opposed to being the ones holding the pen.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead starts as sane as any debate on probability before running up an exponential graph to outline its absurdist deconstruction. With all the time spent whittling away trying to discern the nature of things, we are left to question how much we are letting pass through us. The nature of life isn’t just to understand one’s place, but to embrace being there at all.
Counting the heads fall on the floor of the 14:30 performance directed by Jade Ellis on 9 February 2020 inside the Flashback Theater Company’s Black Box studio space.
Reviewed on Thursday, 9 July 2020