These Paper Bullets!: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Merry sex warriors spin like a record on the turntable stage of These Paper Bullets!, Rolin Jones’s cheeky revamp of Much Ado About Nothing. Set in 1964 London, the show gives Shakespeare’s rom-com a mod refashioning. The main men of the original become a Beatles-like pop group called the Quartos: Benedick is now the Lennonish Ben (the lemon-sour Justin Kirk), flanked by cute Claude (Bryan Fenkart), quiet Balth (scene stealer Lucas Papaelias) and smiley Pedro (James Barry); Don John is Don Best (Adam O’Byrne), bent on revenge for being dropped from the band. The sharp-witted Beatrice gets shortened, like a hemline, into Bea (Mad TV’s Nicole Parker), a trendy designer; Hero becomes Higgy (Ariana Venturi), a pill-popping model, attended by the slatternly Ulcie (Keira Naughton). Studded with Beatles-esque songs by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, the show is a clever bit of tickle.
Jones’s script incorporates a surprising amount of Much Ado’s original language, which splashes amusingly through the lads’ Liverpudlian accents. Though faithful to the fake-infidelity plot of his source, Jones takes liberties with story; there are also wacky diversions into Benny Hill silliness, including slapstick scenes of Scotland Yard detectives (led by Greg Stuhr) and even a drag Queen (Christopher Geary, who also plays the Quartos’ gay manager). Snappily directed by Jackson Gay, with tremendous costumes by Jessica Ford, These Paper Bullets! fizzes with sexual liberation. Naughton is hilariously louche, and Parker’s bravura physical comedy made me laugh harder than anything I’ve seen at the theater all year. The show is well acted all around, but the women are particularly fab.—Adam Feldman
Atlantic Theater Company (Off Broadway). By Rolin Jones. Songs by Billie Joe Armstrong. Directed by Jackson Gay. With Justin Kirk, Nicole Parker. Running time: 2hrs 30mins.
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