But it wasn't that bad! True, the anvils were raining down like cats and dogs, but Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford were really good together! MP---thanks to Aaron Sorkin, I guess---managed to bring a bit of gravity and authentic melancholy to the Matthew Perry character; he made me feel that there was some sort of actual ache behind his usual disaffected boggle-eyed gaze. And Bradley Whitford's character was calm, thoughtful, and centered (comparatively), despite his cocaine problem! (And I really like Whitford since seeing him on Bill Maher).
I really enjoyed them together. Was that wrong? Were they maybe not really as good as they seemed? Because (sadly, because it doesn't bode so well for the show) the rest of the cast were all cardboard cut-outs. Expensive, glossy, premium grade ones, with first-rate technical effects that produced an illusion that they had more than two dimensions, but two dimensional all the same.
So what I really want is a show featuring Perry and Whitford. And I propose that some brave yet arty producer consider this venture: Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead: The Movie. Nobody I know has seen the Richard Dreyfuss/Tim Roth/Gary Oldman film and frankly, talented as all of them are, this film shouldn't be Hollywood's final word---though everyone should see it. We need a populist version, featuring actors everyone knows and loves, so everyone in America gets the R and G experience.
I love that play. I've seen it half a dozen times now and I've always loved it, even though the first time I saw it was with an all-female cast (which made the part involving the players particularly confusing). In the best version, the actor playing Rosencrantz was clearly channeling Robin Williams (the old Robin Williams from the days of Mork); and it was--- weirdly--- brilliant, brilliant.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is about the other side of Hamlet the space between one scene and another, inhabited by two minor characters waiting for something to happen in their favor. It's deep and dark, but also---if performed properly---exceedingly funny. And its impact and meaning and degree of darkness changes varies depending on who performs it and how. Sometimes---this is true--- I even dream about it, with different actors taking the various roles.
I realize that R and G were meant to be young men, friends of Hamlet from his school days. But I prefer a midlife Hamlet. I would like to see that version of the actual Shakespeare play. I think the play is sadder and stranger and altogether more disturbing if Hamlet is a man in midlife; if Claudius and Gertrude and the dead father on the verge of old age; Polonious on the edge of senile dementia or perhaps Alzheimer's; and Ophelia a withering virgin, kept hanging on the vine for too long. It makes the unmarried Hamlet's fixation on his mother's remarriage more neurotic; his resentment of Claudius more poignant, and his madness or pretense of madness all the more believable.
As for the Stoppard play, the main characters get a look-in and that's about it. The central figures are Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and "the player." The Player is amoral, inscrutable, and emotionally commplicated beneath his rapid flow of words and veiled warnings; he's the one who "gets it." The best version I ever saw (in live theater, naturally) was dark, sexually ambiguous----he could have been a very beautiful man or a very handsome woman---and the only one of the three main characters who seems to be working outside the script, even though outwardly compliant. Dreyfus was good, but the Player ought to be an Englishman I think.
But to get back to Whitford and Perry. They are perfect for the Stoppard play: Whitford could easily get across (what I think should be) Guildenstern's character: earnest and not unintelligent, perfectly capable of breaking out of his assigned role and his assigned fate, but too weak-willed in the end to save himself or the much too pliable Rosencrantz from his sense of himself as a player in a script that's already been written. Both Whitford and Perry have the right chemistry and recondite harmony to carry it off.
In the meantime, I'm sending to Netflix for the Dreyfuss/Oldman/Roth version.
Please, somebody? More Stoppard! Forget hamfisted TV shows pushing an agenda (even if it's one I basically believe in) and make use of chemistry when you see it!
Okay, I know it isn't going to happen, since I expect the above-referenced film has basically preempted it. And I don't know a thing about theater, other than the few plays I've really liked (and there aren't many of them, frankly).