Thursday, March 31, 2011
[This is an expanded version of my North Coast Journal review of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead at the College of the Redwoods, where it completes its run this weekend, April 1-3.]
Celebrated for his erudition and wit, British playwright Tom Stoppard never went to college. Admired for his stagecraft, his only experience in theatre was as a newspaper drama critic. His “overnight success,” Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, took years before an Oxford student group did it in 1966. It nearly failed, until rescued by praise in a newspaper column. Audiences, tipped off that it’s a comedy, came and laughed. Then Kenneth Tynan (another drama critic) got Laurence Olivier and the National Theatre interested, and Stoppard has been a major playwright ever since.