Shakespeare’s R & J
Idle Muse production is a masterpiece of the classic
|Idle Muse Theatre presents|
|Shakespeare’s R & J|
Review by Katy Walsh
I went to parochial schools for sixteen years. Conformity was the lesson taught by the nuns with the optional extra-curricular Catholic guilt. We wore uniforms. Our button-down shirts could only have the top button undone. Guys’ trousers could not have back pockets. The girls had a little more flexibility. They could choose between blue gabardine pants or a skirt. And I remember this additional requirement so vividly from the dress code manual, “the skirt should only be two inches above the knees when in the genuflecting position.” Only in Catholic school?!
Idle Muse Theatre Company presents Shakespeare’s R & J. Four high school boys attend a Catholic school. They dress alike. They recite in unison. They learn their catechism. They are trained to respond to school bells in well-mannered order. These four boys deviate from their course schedule. The rebels hide out in a classroom to act out Romeo & Juliet. The guys find their defiance voice in Shakespeare’s classic. Shakespeare’s R & J is kids acting out in school to perfection.
Playwright Joe Calarco creates his own ‘Dead Poet’s Society.‘ As students, his four participants are identical. As actors, his foursome explore a variety of different personas.
Acting out the play is an act of insolence. But Calarco also teases out conflicted feelings toward homosexuality and authority. Under the direction of Tristan Brandon, this sublime ensemble assimilates into the greatest love story ever told. Aside from their matching school uniforms, no costumes. No scenery. No props except for a long flowing red silk. The silk effectively represents passion in moments of hate, love and death. The silk is amazingly versatile. And the visual is powerful.
Into this sparse and intimate setting, Brandon fills the space with a whole lot of talent. The staging is an efficient use of space and text. The pacing is tight. The prose is delivered conversationally and sometimes with surprising attitude. For example, Matt Dyson plays multiple roles but it’s his nurse stint that is unforgettable. Dyson fleshes out a complex version of this supporting staple. Dyson hilariously makes her catty and manipulative. When not performing in R&J, Dyson and Nathan Ducker brood on the sidelines watching the loving acted out. Curtis Jackson (Romeo) and Andrew Lund (Juliet) make beautiful tragic lovers. Their attraction to each other is hot and sweet. I’m rooting for this couple to make it! Their genuine chemistry elicits its own laboratory implosion. As Jackson and Lund pledge their love in the chapel, they are attacked by Dyson and Ducker in the classroom. The underlying homophobia startles one into really grasping the hatred Romeo and Juliet confronted. Poignant! For naughty students, this foursome is A+ material.
The Idle Muse’s Shakespeare’s R & J is a masterpiece of the classic.
Shakespeare’s R & J continues through March 18th at Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $20, and are available by phone (800-838-3006) or online at BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at IdleMuse.org. (Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, which includes one intermission)
behind the scenes
* denotes Idle Muse Ensemble Member