HOUGHTON -- The Acting Company -- the renowned off-Broadway touring theater troupe that counts Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone and Jeffrey Wright among its alumni -- opened both William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, directed by Tony winner John Rando, to rave reviews and sold out shows for all dates in New York a few weeks ago; and now they are hitting the road with what has been called "Theater's Best Double Header Ever." The twist? The actors play the same roles in both plays!
Hamlet is coming to the Rozsa Center on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead will be performed the following night -- Thursday, Feb. 13. Both performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
To be, or not to be -- that is the question.
This is the first production of Hamlet in The Acting Company’s 40-year history. The play dramatizes the revenge Prince Hamlet exacts for his father’s murder, setting him on a journey seeking his personal mortality. It vividly portrays overwhelming grief and rage while exploring themes of danger, revenge and moral corruption. Hamlet is among Shakespeare’s most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature, one of Shakespeare’s most popular works during his lifetime and still ranking among his most-performed. Many believe that Hamlet is the best of Shakespeare’s work, the perfect play and certainly one of his most well-known and oft-quoted plays. Ian Belknap, The Acting Company’s Artistic Director, brings this masterpiece to life having previously directed The Acting Company’s The Comedy of Errors and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, playwright Tom Stoppard's first big hit, starred two unlikely heroes -- a pair of insignificant characters lifted from Hamlet. It tells the absurdist story of the Danish Prince's childhood friends, who are sent to spy on Hamlet and end up as confused courtiers navigating the shark-infested waters of the royal court. As the title suggests, the play ends poorly for the pair. But it didn't for Stoppard: It won the best play Tony Award in 1968 and was turned into a film starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth.
"I love the challenge of it," says director Rando, who directed the Broadway hits A Christmas Story, The Wedding Singer and Urinetown, for which he won a directing Tony. (Ian Belknap directs the companion Hamlet.)
Rando, a University of Texas graduate, recalls falling in love with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as a student and waiting for a chance to direct it himself.
“I think it's an extremely entertaining evening and truly thought-provoking and, of course, funny but also powerful and touching," Rando says. "It's like Waiting for Godot. It has that kind of impact on an audience. In a way, that's what Stoppard did: He wrote Waiting for Godot for these two characters who are stuck in Hamlet.
And, if you’re in the mood for a nice dinner to go with your evening of off-Broadway theater, Bambu Asian Cuisine has a "Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern dinner special" for anyone with tickets to either show! Bambu is offering a 15 percent discount for anyone with tickets to the show, on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and Thursday, Feb. 13.
And finally, have you ever wondered, as the final scene closes and everyone is lying dead on stage, who buries Hamlet? What about a wake? Well, the Rozsa Center wondered the same things and decided it was time to throw a funeral for Hamlet and Co. -- complete with a New Orleans style brass band, food, and a cash bar -- immediately following The Acting Company's Hamlet, and the next night, for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (they die too). Come for the plays, stay for the party!
Tickets for Hamlet are $22, youth $8 (17 and under), and $5 for Michigan Tech students. Tickets for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead are $16, youth $8, and $5 for Michigan Tech students. For tickets, go online, or call Ticketing Operations at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex (SDC), (906) 487-2073, or visit in person at 600 MacInnes Drive, in Houghton. SDC box office hours are 8 a.m. - 9 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 12 noon - 8 p.m. on Sunday. Please note the Rozsa Box Office is closed during regular business hours, and will only open two hours prior to show times.