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‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ takes audience behind iconic Shakespeare scenes

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead"

Sometimes the most interesting things happen in the background.

That’s what provides the basis for “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” a play written by Tom Stoppard. It’s based on what those characters are doing while the events of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” are going on.

Nashville Repertory Theatre is performing the play in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center through Oct. 31. The play is in the Andrew Johnson Theater, which is a smaller, more intimate theater similar to the Black Box Theater.

The set, although unchanging throughout the performance, was great. It brought the audience close enough to the actors to really be immersed in what was going on – some lucky audience members were even close enough to touch the set.

As characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are wonderful foils to one another, with Guildenstern being more rational than Rosencrantz. The contrast between them let the back-and-forth banter shine. Adding the Player and the Tragedians into the mix was a bonus.

Because of the different viewpoint of the play, the audience saw a different set of characters be front and center. Hamlet and Ophelia were in the background, and those who were once minor characters got to be in the spotlight.

The actors were all fantastic. Because “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is based on a Shakespearian play, the dialogue sometimes got hard to follow. However, the actors were able to support the words with their actions. It also helped that one of the big themes of the play seemed to be confusion. After all, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spent the majority of the play confused over which one of them was which.

One very interesting thing about the performance was the interaction with the audience. There are various points throughout the play where the actors seemed to acknowledge the audience and talk to it. They were short moments, but they served to immerse the audience even deeper in the performance.

While the ending isn’t really a mystery – after all, it’s in the title as well as in “Hamlet” – the performance was more than enough to keep the audience interested. Because not much was known about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from “Hamlet,” it was like getting introduced to entirely new characters.

All in all, seeing the performance is a highly recommended way to spend any night of the week.

The Nashville Repertory Theatre will continue performing through Oct. 31. For tickets, go to TPAC’s website. Students can get tickets for $22 ahead of time by showing their student ID at the Box Office, or get rush tickets 90 minutes before the show for $12.50 also by showing their student ID.

Photos courtesy of Nashville Repertory Theatre, taken by Shane Burkeen.

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