“With ‘Hamlet,’ once you get past the flowery language, you have a very simple story that you can follow,” said Mallino. “In ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,’ you’re dealing with straightforward English but very complicated philosophical ideas – what is death, what is life, what responsibility do you take for your situation. I think everybody who sees it comes away with something different, because there’s so much in it.”

It may be impossible to discuss “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” without mentioning “Hamlet,” but Mallino is quick to note that it’s not necessary to know Shakespeare’s play in order to enjoy Stoppard’s.

“There’s a fairly amazing moment between the two characters where they sum up ‘Hamlet’ in less than half a page of dialogue,” said Mallino. “It’s brilliantly written and funny, but it also will serve as a kind of quick ‘Cliffs Notes’ for anyone who isn’t entirely familiar with it.”

Of course, with MAT’s production running concurrent with the University of Montana’s production of “Hamlet” (see related story), it’s a good time to become familiar with both plays.

The timing of the two productions was no coincidence; MAT artistic director Grant Olson and University of Montana professor Greg Johnson hatched the idea to do the two plays simultaneously last year. Mallino, who had wanted to direct “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” for years, jumped at the chance to get involved.

“I love Shakespeare of course, and Tom Stoppard is one of the few modern playwrights who is not only incredibly thoughtful and brilliant in his own work, but you can tell from the script that he really loves and is respectful to and inspired by Shakespeare,” said Mallino. “I’m really hoping that audiences find it as fascinating as I do.”