Sunday, October 22, 2006

A hip adaptation of "R&J"

My freelance review:
If you appreciate Shakespeare, you'll probably appreciate "Shakespeare's R&J," a new adaptation of "Romeo & Juliet" now playing at the St. Louis Repertory Theater's Off-Ramp series at the Grandel Theatre.

The play offers a unique interpretation. Four classmates are excited to have their hands on a school-banned text of the classic tragedy. They act it out on their own at nighttime, presumably in secret, in lieu of a night's sleep. Each of the classmates takes on multiple roles as they bring Shakespeare's 400-year-old intricate language to life with a strong sense of energy.

Only a very few props are used throughout the play, and the set is the same throughout. This aspect of simplicity keeps focus on the four actors and the Shakespearean dialog, which goes from simply being read and acted out, at first, to more of a sense of being "lived and experienced" as the story unfolds. Perhaps it's to suggest a sense of maturing that the play induces for the four.

The four classmates are male and have a strong sense of friendship and comfort around each other as the classic love story plays out with increasing passion in a gender-neutral way. The actors are accomplished and make it easy to believe that they are friends thrilled to be acting out and experiencing what Shakespeare's tragedy has to offer them.

From a foot march that begins the show through the playing out of the tragic deaths of the play's ill-fated lovers, director Paul Mason Barnes' timing is consistent and quick-paced.

"Shakespeare's R&J" plays through Nov. 5 at the St. Louis Repertory Theater's Off-Ramp series at the Grandel Theatre.

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