Romeo and Juliet
A hilariously deconstructed take on the enduring classic.
Wed Dec 30 2009
BARD NONE Johanson, left, and Gridley are faux-Shakespearean lovers;...
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
First step: Abandon Shakespeare. Or, at least, keep him on a long tether, because this Romeo and Juliet is not that Romeo and Juliet. This version is another deconstructionist posy from the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, the same brilliant zanies who brought us the telephone-conversation epic No Dice and the sensitive, bloodthirsty Rambo Solo. (See the Film review of Rambo Solo-related Flooding with Love for the Kid.)
At first it seems that after years of subverting theatrical conventions, creators Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska have been seduced by them again. A sweetly painted trompe l’oeil curtain (which never opens) backs a stage tricked out with a prompter’s box and footlights. Juliet (Gridley) and Romeo (Johanson) even don appropriate costumes, although they ham and bellow as they did in No Dice—part 19th-century melodrama, part silent-film facial excess.
Quilted from people’s half-remembered accounts of the titular classic (“Romeo was a guy...”), the piece consists mainly of long, increasingly hilarious verbatim monologues. By the time Johanson plants his feet, waggles his eyebrows with ludicrous confidence and yells, “It happened in a town called...Montague!” we are all his devoted Mercutios.
The final portion, in which the duo talks about self-sufficiency, deliberately kills the buzz. Copper and Liska prod us away from our addiction to narrative opium; there’s a reason that people recall only the tragedy’s splashy beginning and its gory end. But again, the company sugars the methadone. We imbibe a ton of analysis—of storytelling, of grief’s cathartic power—and yet this is no apothecary’s draught. At least, judging from all the stamping, hiccuping laughter, it wasn’t putting anyone to sleep.—Helen Shaw
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