Total Pageviews

Monday, November 23, 2009

“Shakespeare’s R&J” the gay Romeo and Juliet at TheaterWorks

HARTFORD — Young passion, forbidden love, tragedy, and self-discovery are all intertwined in “Shakespeare’s R&J” — a provocative, energetic all male adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of star-crossed lovers at TheaterWorks.
I hope I’m not spoiling the ending for anyone by saying that in this play as in the original, Romeo and Juliet don’t make it out alive. In this show adapted by Joe Calarco, a group of four students read Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” a la “Dead Poet’s Society.”
They start out using the script and then evolve into acting the parts, sans costumes, wearing their gray school uniforms throughout.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers who meet and fall instantly in love. Their families, the Montegues and the Capulets, are sworn enemies. Juliet’s parents have an arranged marriage in mind for her, and it isn’t Romeo. She and Romeo secretly marry.
In self defense, Romeo kills Tibalt, Juliet’s cousin, in a street fight, and he is banished from the land.
The Friar devises a plan where Juliet takes a potion that makes her appear dead. He tries to get a message to Romeo of the scheme, but it doesn’t get to Romeo in time (no texting available in those Medieval days) and he believes her dead. He sees her apparently dead, kills himself and when Juliet awakens to find Romeo dead, she stabs herself to death.
They say youth is often wasted on the young, but not in “Shakespeare R&J,” where the sheer energy and exuberance and acting ability of the four actors is a delight..
Any opportunity to hear Shakespeare’s remarkably glorious language is a welcome treat, here confidently directed by Rob Ruggiero, the actors visually exaggerate the dialog’s intent without overdoing it.
And what language. Here is some of the most beautiful, simple, and elegant words about romantic love ever written.
“Love is a smoke made with the flame of sighs…a madness most discontent.”
“Love is not love that alters when alteration finds.”
“What ’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
In a world where profanity has become just another adjective, it’s illuminating to note that in all of Shakespeare’s plays he only used few truly profane oaths, although sexual and bawdy innuendo abounds.
It isn’t the language that is provocative here, nor the subject matter, but the fact that the lovers are both men. I suppose that will bother some, but I look at the acting, not the biology, and in that they are terrific.
It’s a great premise too, because, with a different setting and a different type of cast, the language, which is all so familiar, takes on a new life.
That being said, it is never easy to say lines that have been etched into our social subconscious till they are cliches, and make them sound fresh.
When Ashley Robinson, who plays Juliet, says, “Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo,” it feels like he is trying to manipulate the lines to not sound so familiar, making if feel forced.
There are some amusing lines that I didn’t recall from other productions, such as when Juliet is frustrated by the Nurse, played by TJ Linnard, when she won’t talk, and says, “How can you be out of breath if you have breath to say you are out of breath?”
Linnard’s Nurse is the least successful of the characters, with an exaggerated falsetto that is difficult to understand at times.
Adam Barrie’s Romeo is as tender and as passionate as one could wish for in the romantic hero.
Paul Terzenbach as Mercutio delivers his dying lines with unexpected depth and then humor when he says, “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”
Set in a Catholic boy’s boarding school, with four chairs and a gray stone backdrop with red votive candles, the single set is a sublime study in austere minimalism that works beautifully, by Brian Prather.
So, TheaterWorks, how about next time you do something really provocative and produce “Shakespeare’s R&J” with an all woman cast.


3 Stars
Theater: TheaterWorks
Location: 233 Pearl St. Hartford.
Production: Adapted by Joe Calarco. Directed by Rob Ruggiero. Set design by Brian Prather. Lighting design by Matthew Richards. Sound design by Vincent Olivieri.
Running time: Two hours, one intermission
Show Times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays — 8 p.m. Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays — 2:30 p.m. Extra Sunday evening shows — 7:30 p.m. (later weeks of most runs). The show will run through Dec. 20.
Tickets: Unassigned seating is $38; $48 on Friday and Saturday nights. Center reserved seats $12 extra. $12 student rush tickets at show time with valid ID (subject to availability). For tickets call 860-527-7838 or visit their Web site at
Adam Barrie … Student 1
Ashley Robinson … Student 2
Paul Terzenbach … Student 3
TJ Linnard … Student 4

No comments: