Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Review - Concluding Saint Sebastian Players' 36th Year

The Saint Sebastian Players conclude the company’s 36th season with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Performances run until May 21, 2017 at St. Bonaventure, 1625 W. Diversey (enter on Marshfield), Chicago.  Tom Stoppard first staged this absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1966.  This production presents a large cast, appropriate costumes and sets, and some creative special effects. Note that on Mother’s Day (May 14), in contrast to Hamlet’s unusual relationship with his mother Gertrude, every person who buys a full-price ticket may buy a ticket for his/her mother for only $5.



Guildenstern (Alexander Johnson) and Rosencrantz (Eric Prahl)

The play concerns the misadventures and musings of two minor characters from Hamlet who are childhood acquaintances of the prince, placing their actions in the foreground with the events of Hamlet in the background. The two are leading characters in this version. While they are off-stage in Shakespeare’s play, they are on stage in this play. In Hamlet, the King uses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to discover Hamlet’s motives and plot against him. Hamlet, however, mocks them derisively and outwits them. Thus, the action in Hamlet, while typically viewed as tragic, is largely nonsensically comical from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s perspective.



Rosencrantz (Eric S. Prahl), Claudius (David R. Feiler), Guildenstern (Alexander Johnson); rear: Polonius (Brian Vabulas) and Hamlet (Christopher Wilson)

From my experience, I would suggest a review of Hamlet, although the program has a brief synopsis.  Even though it is not necessary, I think the more familiar one is with the original play, the more the humor in this play can be appreciated. It is an ambitious production.


This performance runs three hours and you really should plan to stay for all three acts, because the third act brings the story line together and presents very creative special effects.  The staging and sets were well done.


I would have enjoyed this production more if the words were clearer more of the time.  I lost some of the humor.  Lauren Miller as the leader of the Tragedians was a stand out.  The musical accompaniment enhanced the performance.


Tragedians (Kathryn Miller, Nathan Dunn, Alexandra Cross) and Alfred (Elise Soeder)

Directing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is SSP co-founder Jim Masini, who previously directed The Tempest, As You Like It, Lend Me A Tenor, The Rivals and many others for SSP. The cast features SSP member Eric S. Prahl as Rosencrantz and, new to SSP, Alexander Johnson as Guildenstern. Other cast members include SSP members Alexandra Cross, Jessica Goforth, George Manisco, Natalie Reff, Renae Stone and Brian Vabulas, as well as Nathan Dunn, David R. Feiler, Kathryn Miller, Lauren Miller, Elise Soeder and Christopher Wilson. The production staff includes SSP company members Cortney West as set designer, Robert-Eric West as costume designer, Aaron Harris Woodstein as sound designer, Alex Demetralis as dramaturg, Brittany Eude as properties master, Joshua Messick as assistant director and Marshall Jacobson and Nancy Pollock as co-producers. Also on the production team are Nick Coso as lighting designer, Taylor Hobart as stage manager and Kathryn Miller and Jess Minogue as technical assistants.


The Player (Lauren Miller) and Tragedians (Kathryn Miller, Nathan Dunn, Elise Soeder, Jessica Goforth, Alexandra Cross)

SSP began producing theatre in 1982 at its original home, the St. Sebastian parish, located at the corner of Halsted Street and Wellington Avenue on Chicago’s North Side. When the parish closed in 1990, SSP relocated to its current home, St. Bonaventure, at 1625 W. Diversey. During its history, the company has produced original and previously produced dramas, comedies and musicals; original audience-participation mysteries for special events; and the Monologue Matchup Competition, as well as provided support for smaller Sebastian Studio Projects produced by company members. For a complete production history, visit Saintsebastian History.


Tragedians (Nathan Dunn, Jessica Goforth, Alexandra Cross)


Performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead  run to May 21, 2017, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at St. Bonaventure, 1625 W. Diversey, at Marshfield just west of Ashland, in Chicago. Free parking is available in two lots. Full-priced tickets are $20; tickets for seniors, students with valid IDs at the door and children younger than 12 are $12. Group rates also are available. All programming is subject to change. For information, call 773-404-7922 or visit the saintsebastian website.


Guildenstern (Alexander Johnson), Rosencrantz (Eric S. Prahl) and the Player (Lauren Miller)

Photos: Eryn Walanka



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