Hip Shot: A Commedia Romeo and Juliet
Sunday, July 14, 6:15 PM
Saturday, July 20, 9:00 PM
Sunday, July 21, 9:00 PM
Wednesday, July 24, 10:15 PM
Sunday, July 28, 6:30 PM
They say: "Shakespeare's story of poetry-spouting lovers, squabbling fathers and dim-witted servants draws heavily on Commedia dell’Arte. The masks, acrobatics and humor from the Italian Comedy make the tragic turns cut all the more deeply. The Washington Post calls it 'inspired.'”
Five actors alike in volume come trundling onto the stage. And trundle is the correct word. Their main prop is a rolling trunk which turns into a variety of objects (a cross, a confessional, a balcony, pedestals for flowers, etc.) and produces a variety of props (flowers, daggers, and dead bodies mostly). This trunk — along with simple quick-change tabards, doublets, masks, and skirts — allows this Faction of Fools to change scenes and characters quickly. There were a couple of bumpy moments with changes of set or costume, but the actors incorporated the difficulties into the performance and elicited laughs.
The quick changes produced some of the more comic effects as when Tybalt (Lindsey D. Snyder) suddenly became Lady Capulet after his death scene and the cast had to hunt for a dead body.
While every actor makes a strong contribution, the two standouts for me were Tyler Herman, who played both the Nurse and Count Paris as well as several minor characters, and Gwen Grastorf who not only played Juliet, but covered the Prince and other incidental characters. Both of them managed to find humor in some of the unlikeliest spots, but Ms Grastorf especially never lost sight of the underlying tragedy.
Mercutio's speech was wittily handled by Justin Purvis (who also played Old Capulet with a surprising amount of cheery menace) and the other actors helped bring Queen Mab's train to life. It was a moment of sheer theatricality and invention which made the silly/tragic fight scene resulting in Mercutio's death all the more poignant. The empty mask is left on the stage to emphasize the character's death. My only real staging criticism is that they didn't do the same with Tybalt's mask to highlight the tit-for-tat nature of the families' feud.
Since the company had to fit the entire play into an hour, the text was trimmed with a machete rather than a scalpel, but the lively pace it produced kept anyone in the audience from having time to get bored.
See it if: You enjoy fast-paced Shakespeare with inventive performances. It's a good introduction to Shakespeare for kids.
Skip it if: You're a purist who prefers yours Shakespeare uncut.