College is where you go to see theater classics you haven't seen for years or have never seen and wonder what all the fuss is about. Here, UIndy reminds us that in Tom Stoppard's (Shakespeare in Love) Tony-award winning play, the fuss is about language - clever, playful and frightening. Turning Shakespeare's Hamlet inside out, Stoppard focuses on two minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and their funny, disturbing struggle to understand (ala Waiting for Godot tramps) their roles onstage and in life. Time weighs on them between their few scenes with Hamlet, but for us, it is like watching Laurel and Hardy on acid. A game of flipping coins speaks of brilliant luck to one and imminent doom to the other. Their time with a traveling theater troupe starts as a treat, but builds to a threat.
In this production, the fuss is also about the perfect performances of Chelsey Wood and Stephanie Kucsera, two actresses in the male leads, the clown and the cynic who swap identities throughout the play, as Stoppard intended, and bend their genders as the playwright did not. I also enjoyed Robert M. Absher's stately turn as The Player and the subtle comedic timing of his tragedians, including three bearded ladies who, along with Wood and Kucsera, trounce on Shakespeare-era convention that banned ladies from the stage.
Through Dec. 11, University of Indianapolis, Esch Hall Studio Theatre, 788-3251, www.theatre.uindy.edu