Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

L.A. Theatre Works. Sept. 2022. 1:51 hrs. ISBN 9781682661697. $20. DRAMA
Stoppard’s Tony Award–winning play follows the misadventures of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet who wait in the wings of the tragic play without fully understanding their roles. This audio play is performed with wit and gusto by a troupe of talented narrators: JD Cullum, Seamus Dever, Anna Lyse Erikson, Martin Jarvis, Adhir Kalyan, André Sogliuzzo, Susan Sullivan, and Matthew Wolf. Kalyan, who plays the part of Rosencrantz, and Wolf, who voices Guildenstern, provide pitch-perfect depictions of the hapless courtiers who are drawn into the tragedy of Hamlet but are deeply unsure of their own identities, their relationship to the play, and the very meaning of life and death. Even as they find themselves on a ship and destined for near-certain death (listeners may remember the ominous sentence from the last act of Hamlet, announcing their deaths), they engage in snappy banter. The performers pass words among themselves with fantastic timing, creating laugh-aloud “who’s on first?” moments that might make listeners rewind the audiobook in order to experience it all again.
VERDICT Stoppard’s play was meant to be performed just like this, with relish and verve. An outstanding production that makes the most of the audio medium.
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