Staged reading is second of a six-part series

“To be or not to be . . .” is not the question posed by Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. His question is: what is death? Is it a thing in and of itself, or are life and death merely two sides of the same coin? Shakespeare voiced his thoughts in Hamlet’s soliloquy:

To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:

Stoppard’s response is:

Eternity’s a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it all going to end?

No one gets up after death-there is no applause-there is only silence and some second-hand clothes, and that’s death.

The fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen–it’s not gasps and blood and falling about–that isn’t what makes it death. It’s just a man failing to reappear, that’s all–now you see him, now you don’t, that’s the only thing that’s real…

Stoppard startled and captivated audiences when he retold the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an absurdist farce, focusing on the point of view of two of the famous play’s most insignificant characters. In the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the major characters while the Hamlet figures are plot devices in the story of two ordinary men caught up in events they can neither understand nor control.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead won the Tony Award for Best Play; New York Drama Critics’ Circle Best Play of the Year; Plays and Players London Theatre Critics Award for Best New Play. Clive Barnes of the New York Times wrote: “This is a most remarkable and thrilling play. In one bound Mr. Stoppard is asking to be considered as among the finest English-speaking writers of our stage, for this is a work of fascinating distinction…”

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead marks the second of World’s End Theatre’s (WET) 20th Century Classics Reading Series. WET founding member Donald Kimmel will direct. Reading the play will be George Lee Andrews, Jennifer Lee Andrews, Joseph Dunn, Johnny Giovanni, Lucky Gretzinger, Patrick Halley, Carl Graham Howell, George Kimmel, Tyler Mell, Kadence Neill and John Christian Plummer.

The reading will take place on Sat. Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. at the space at 69 Main Street. Admission is free, but reservations are essential — the last World’s End reading had a full house. For reservations, call 845-809-5584.
Photo courtesy of WET

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