Fans of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead got a special Hollywood Fringe Festival treat this year with Crabbe and Goyle are Dead, written by Kitty Keim. Instead of ‘heads’ vs. tails in a repeated coin toss that sets both of Stoppard’s characters out on their metaphysical journey, here we meet Vincent Crabbe (Michael Lutheran) as he opens chocolate frog after chocolate frog to discover the same card inside featuring the famed alchemist Nicholas Flamel [the creator of the sorcerer’s stone, for you five people reading this who may not know the Potter universe]. His eternal pal Gregory Goyle (Graydon Schlichter) is the first to suggest something is wrong with the cases of chocolate frogs in a care package from Mrs. Malfoy. When he suggests it is an omen, Crabbe counters with “But Divinations isn’t until the third year,” giving us all a taste of the mash-ups to come.
In place of characters from Hamlet that come barging through in a series of mid-most-famous-scenes-ever beats, here we have Harry Potter (Ace Carter), Hermione Granger (Brittany Stahl), Ron Weasley (Aaron Eberhardt), Draco Malfoy (Anna Carlson) and many more including Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, Hagrid and ‘others’, all portrayed via shadows or an exchange of costume and wigs by Carter, Stahl and Eberhardt. The only character not culled from the books is Tinsy the House Elf (Kiki Andersen). She interacts with and is aware of the situation with Crabbe and Goyle but is not able to do much to help them sort out what they are meant to do in this situation. When Draco pops into the scene, they morph into their sidekick roles and back everything he says. The moment he leaves, they wonder why they do that. Goyle wonders “… why do we act stupid? When did we start that? Do you remember?”
Given their strange position on the periphery of things, they are also granted moments to question the world they are in, as when Goyle tries to puzzle out the odds of pulling a Flamel card out of 500 chocolate frogs and asks Crabbe “What’s 500 times 31?” Crabbe retorts, “Maths are no year at all, Mate. Just like English. Bit of a gap don’t you think?” As with the original work it has been derived from, Keim’s play makes us reframe iconic moments around Crabbe and Goyle, making us wonder what the whole experience would have been like from that point of view and it is a delightful experience. We do wonder why Tinsy is present and not one of many house elves Rowling provided for us to love, hate and cry for. Her role is a vague one and it doesn’t help that the choice was made to give her a heavy accent coupled with a high pitched voice that makes some of what she says nearly unintelligible.
Director Andy Justus keeps things moving at a lightning pace while letting his two main actors express themselves at a near-continuous-shout for a period of time and both extremes make one wish we could dial them back a bit. One of the most successful aspects of the Stoppard play are the moments when the characters are suspended in doubt, uncertain which way to move next. When they make a decision, something happens to send them in a completely different direction. That’s lacking here in many beats that could have landed differently. This was most clear in the final moments of the play that center around the Battle for Hogwarts and the events that occur in the Room of Requirement. Crabbe goes a bit power mad as he waves his wand trying to kill Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Goyle makes it out of the room before the fire can take him thanks to Ron. The three heroes run off to face Voldemort leaving Goyle alone.
His final speech has the potential to be lovely [even as it lifts the final line right out of Stoppard’s play], but it comes at us so quickly, in the performance I attended, the audience didn’t know when the play was over. “Death is not romantic…”, Goyle realizes, “Not a voice beyond a veil promising eternity… Death is nothing… Just an endless time of never coming back or of haunting the halls of a castle that may not be standing by the end of the night… Death is- I can’t remember… Our names shouted by a certain hat… a friend forced on us by House and Surname… an owl… a serpent. There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said — no. But somehow we missed it.”
Crabbe and Goyle are Dead is produced by Kitty Keim and Thomas Keim. Toni Rose is the production manager. Milan Noelle and Kate Halauko are the production interns. Lighting Design by Greg Crafts. The Stage Manager is Brett Moore. The Venue Manager is Jenn Crafts.
For more information, here is the link to the Hollywood Fringe site:
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