"If I had paid off-Broadway prices in New York to see this, I would not have been disappointed."
Thus spake Scarlet as we strolled down the alley to the free, patrolled, parking lot. We'd spent 2 hours and 40 minutes with the dysfunctional Danish royal family, seated comfortably in the first tier, right on the edge, near the exit door. I was relaxed and comfortable right up until who-killed-which-and-why took hold of my brain. I needed to know, I worried about consequences, I was a little teary at the end.
I've never been as entranced with the plot as I was at this performance. I saw Dame Judith Anderson act the role in 1971 at Cornell. I've seen Mel Gibson and Laurence Olivier on film. I've read it, at least twice, for a class. Until this weekend, it bored me.
The Rogue Theater, this little place in this little town in Scarlet's words, brought the ambiguity and the conflict into as much clarity as the words themselves allow. It's a complicated tale of revenge and madness and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, which we saw the week before, was of absolutely no help at all. We laughed at Tom Stoppard's verbiage, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you the story.
In Hamlet, though, I had no trouble at all. Starting as it ends, with men at arms, the sentries drew me in and, before I knew it, I was going with the flow. All those phrases I knew but never could place were popping out of the actors' mouths with fluency, as if they spoke that way in the grocery store, too. I was following along, not just with the action, but with the words, themselves.
I don't think I am that much smarter now; I think The Rogue took the play to another level.
The costumes, the simple tapestry which, along with 2 thrones and Ophelia's flowers was the entire set design, the tenderness with which both the content and the performers were treated by the production, made it a magical afternoon.
No, it's not New York. It doesn't have to be.