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Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Monday, August 6, 2001

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

at Pendragon Theatre, Saranac Lake, NY, Wed., July 25 through Tue., Aug. 28, 2001

I've said this before, but it bears repeating; Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake is to be commended for never taking the easy road with summer theatre. Their season is ambitious and seems to come off surprisingly well. Their current production of Tom Stoppard's ROSENKRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD is a good case in point. It's a rather bleak comedy loaded with Stoppard's trademark verbal gymnastics, and the majority of the cast is pretty much up to it.

As to the subject matter, here are a few pithy quotes: "Life is a gamble on terrible odds;" "What a fine persecution - to be kept intrigued without ever being quite enlightened;" and finally, "It makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style." Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are minor characters in HAMLET who have no idea why they're there or what they're supposed to do, and no vestige of control over their destinies.

Peter Picard is wonderful as Rosenkrantz. He's very funny and his child-like bewilderment is quite touching. He does a great job with the well known "asleep in a box" speech. Ralph Petrarca plays opposite him as Guildenstern, and their dialogue exchanges show they both have a good sense of comic timing. However Mr. Petrarca needs to take a bit more time and have more fun with his long speeches; a few times his speed lost us.

As for Chris McGovern as the Player, this is the best thing I've seen him do. His rather grand bearing is perfect for the role. As he says, "We're actors - we're the opposite of people." The multi-talented Devon Ford's portrayal of Alfred is great fun, and his numerous bits of musicianship are impressive.

The coterie of Tragedian Matts all work together well and look as if they're having a wonderful time. As Stoppard says, "Pirates can happen to anyone," and in this production the pirates swarm on like locusts to great effect.

There's an old joke that goes - the good news is that you're cast as Hamlet. The bad news is that it's in ROSENKRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. Kristopher Kensinger does a respectable job with this minimal Hamlet. The other Shakespearean characters are weak, particularly Isaac Snell as the Soldier and Horatio. The final speech of the play needs to be clearly enunciated at the very least.

Kent Streed's costumes are colorful and fun, especially those of the Tragedians and the pirates. I enjoyed the original music by Ellen Mandel. Bill Resnicek's set is inventive and interesting to look at. It makes maximum use of the space available. I'm always stunned by the use of traps at this theatre - the mind reels!

Karen Lordi's direction is strong and her staging creative. It's obvious she had fun with the play, especially Act III. She's pulled together an eclectic cast with wildly varying levels of experience into a fairly cohesive production.

I see my time is running out and as the Player says, "In the winter of your years the dark comes early." So, on a scale of one to five, the Pendragon production of ROSENKRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD gets four pine cones. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.