King’s Academy, December 13, 2015 — This year’s fall production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was an entertaining amalgamation of thoughtful reflection, existential humor, and all-around absurdity.
For three consecutive nights in the Abdul Majeed Shoman Auditorium, Jouman Barakat ’16 (Rosencrantz) and Dario Pomar ’19 (Guildenstern) blew away audiences with their impeccable performances as the tragic antiheroes in this witty and profound alternative to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
The play opens with the titular characters engaging in an endless albeit hilariously convoluted dialogue about life and death as they embark on their fateful journey to England, as summoned by King Claudius (Faisal Al-Alami ’16) to seek out the reason for Prince Hamlet’s (Rakan Haddadin ’19) alleged madness.
Through on-going futile word games, the bewildered duo, who have no recollection of the past and often confuse themselves with one another, muse over the nature of their existence in a desperate attempt to gain an understanding of the events unfolding around them – but to no avail.
In the liminal space between art and reality, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have frequent run-ins with several members from the original case of Hamlet, including a bizarre acting troupe* (the Tragedians) and their larger than life leader, the Player (Ahmad Freihat ’16), whose sporadic temper tantrums and dramatic poetic recitations illustrate his inability to differentiate between life and art.
But as the play continues – in quintessential postmodern fashion – no real progression occurs. Trapped in an absurd meta-theatrical world, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern slowly begin to realize that they are defined solely by their roles – not as individuals – and in an unexpected turn of events, their execution is ordered by the king, yet they are incapable of altering their scripted demise.
Theater teacher and director Victoria Moyer chose the play for its “important philosophical and structural meanings,” which – she hopes – will encourage people to raise questions about life that perhaps they wouldn’t ordinarily contemplate.
“The metaphor of a script is interesting when we think about it in real life and wonder who the ‘main characters’ really are,” Moyer said. “We forget to look at other people and explore what’s happening in their lives. We learn about (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) and feel connected to them because they’re two people who are confused about their lives but, then again, so are many of us.”
*Tragedians: Khaled Abdulaziz ’18, Maya Abdul-qader ’17, Seif Ariqat ’18, Dalia Chahien ’19, Zain Jarrar ’19 and Jenna Sharaf ’19
Other cast members: Rand AlHarahsheh ’18, Rakan Haddadin ’19, Fiona Hansen ’19, Katerina Saleh ’17 and Abigail Smith ’17