The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Parkland’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ makes you question your existence


**This article contains minor spoilers.**


Parkland College Theatre debuted the play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at the Harold and Jean Minear Theatre on Thursday night. 

The play, directed by Amy Penne and written by British playwright Tom Stoppard, is a stellar example of an absurdist, existential tragicomedy. It revolves around the exploits of two minor characters from William Shakespeare’s classic “Hamlet” — Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” begins with the main characters flipping a coin, which lands on heads 92 times in a row. From the first scene, the audience is welcomed into the world of Stoppard, where the lines of fact and fiction are blurred. 

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The titular characters are very interactive and playful with the audience, immediately breaking the fourth wall at the beginning of the play by acknowledging the room.

Keen audience members might distinguish that the stage’s structure alludes to the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s own theater. The play uses minimalist design, which benefits story progression and highlights the performers.

Actors Douglas Malcolm and Anthony DiGregorio, who play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respectively, seamlessly work as a duo.

“We found the rhythm fast,” DiGregorio said. “(Penne) brought us in a little bit earlier just so we would have some extra rehearsal, and it was one of those things where there’s a lot of luck and skill. Everything just started clicking real quick.” 

During the three acts, the protagonists share long conversations, which Malcolm and DiGregorio playfully master, straddling the line between witty banter and existential questions. 

“We started rehearsing almost right after the cast list was announced,” Malcolm said. “We just ran it. We got our lines down as quickly as possible, pacing before running lines with each other, and it paid off.”

The central theme throughout the play is death. It draws parallels with another tragicomedy, “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, as both pieces shine the spotlight on two protagonists who engage in thoughtful conversations and experiences. 

Due to the subject matter and its exploration, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is suggested for teen audiences and up. While the premise of the play might not initially appeal to non-Shakespeare fans, the message at its core will surely stir up any audience.

With lines like “The color yellow is a mystical experience shared by everybody” and “Is there a God?,” theatergoers can also enjoy more than a couple of existential laughs. 

Since the play deals with characters from “Hamlet,” there are some references that those unfamiliar with Shakespeare likely won’t understand. However, this won’t stop the audience from enjoying the show and laughing at the jokes.

“I think some people didn’t get certain jokes and that’s OK, you don’t have to,” Penne said. “The ‘Hamlet’ people can get the ‘Hamlet’ jokes, and the non-‘Hamlet’ people can get all the others, and it lends the wit. Stoppard’s wit is unstoppable.”

Parkland’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is a moving and thought-provoking piece, providing something different and innovative for theater-goers of Champaign-Urbana. 


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