Review: Down & Dirty Romeo & Juliet (Shattered Globe)

  
  

Who will play your Romeo? Who will be your Juliet?

  
  

Dion Rice (Romeo) and Alice Pacyga (the Nurse) star in Shattered Globe Theatre’s interactive and ever-changing production of DOWN & DIRTY ROMEO & JULIET playing at various Chicago venues.  (Photo: Kevin Viol)

   
Shattered Globe Theatre presents
  
  
Down & Dirty Romeo & Juliet
   
   
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Roger Smart
at various Chicago locations (see below)
through July 17  |  tickets: $18   |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

‘Where art thou Romeo?’  Well, Juliet, last time I saw him, he was on the 94th floor of the Hancock….

Shattered Globe Theatre presents Down & Dirty Romeo & Juliet.  Shakespeare’s greatest love story ever told is being told in various locales around the city.  The Montagues and Capulets hate each other.  Their family feud is the town’s gang problem.  For fun, the Montagues crash the Capulets’ house party. It’s just a silly prank until Romeo falls hard for the host’s daughter.  But he’s not alone in enemy territory, Juliet is equally smitten.  Their forbidden love unites them in fatal ecstasy.  Christina Gorman (Lady Capulet) and Angie Shriner (Juliet) star in Shattered Globe Theatre’s interactive and ever-changing production of DOWN & DIRTY ROMEO & JULIET playing at various Chicago venues.  (Photo: Kevin Viol)The story is familiar.  The surroundings may not be.  Shattered Globe takes Shakespeare’s ‘all the world’s a stage’ to heart and hits the road.  Down & Dirty Romeo & Juliet is a classic to go!

The unique experience starts upon arrival.  At check-in, the audience must pick a side.  Each guest is literally labeled Montague or Capulet.  A cheat sheet of Shakespearian insults is issued to help the discord mood.  Guests are encouraged to concoct personalized abuse from piecing together four columns of choices.  My favorite is ‘grow unsightly warts thou puking maggot-pie.’  It’s all a part of a build-your-own-adventure theme.  Before the show starts, actors are introduced with their potential parts.  By applause and cheers, the audience decides on the starting line-up.  Roles are assigned and the action starts immediately.  There’s no curtain, stage or fourth wall separating the drama from reality.  The story unfolds in between tables.  Because they are wearing street clothes, it’s impossible to tell the actors from the audience. At the Capulet’s dance party, it’s a blur of family enemies and non-acting revelry.  The interactive experience is a surreal engagement. 

Under the direction of Roger Smart, the show is tightly paced professionalism. It’s an impressive surprise. The informality around the show, before it starts and during intermission, seems to indicate a more loose affair.  The charades-in-the-living-room comfy vibe is sidelined as the first line cues up the polished acting.  The Shakespearean prose is delivered with conversational passion. On the night I attended, the doomed lovers were Behzad Dabu (Romeo) and Melissa Nedell (Juliet). Dabu and Nedell have all the youthful innocence of love at first sight: charming, lusty, slightly clumsy flirtation. Their sweet synergy produces a hopeful optimism for a possible different story outcome. The entire cast fights, dances, dies with zesty commitment. Despite the obvious rehearsed mastery, there is still an improv twist.  An actor will interface with an audience member as in conversation or just by stealing a sip of beer.  During my performance, a young girl was coughing during Lord Capulet’s (Brad Woodward) monologue.  With a perfectly uttered ‘we are all dying’ line, Woodward cracks the house up.  Alice Pacyga (Nurse) is hilarious delivering some sass while chomping down at the refreshment table.

Dion Rice (Romeo) interacts with audience member (Balthasar) in Shattered Globe Theatre’s interactive and ever-changing production of DOWN & DIRTY ROMEO & JULIET playing at various Chicago venues. (Photo: Kevin Viol)The Hancock provided incomparable scenery to the Shakespearean tragedy. The sunset magnificently filled the room with a vibrant glow. Although missing its earlier line cue, the moon did finally rise beautifully over the lake. In the background, the city shimmered into its evening wear adding an urban enchantment. It looks stunning but it sounds not so attractive. The only issue with the Hancock locale is the noise level. The show utilizes the Observatory’s café for the production. It’s not closed to the non-theatre public. Unfortunately, the chatter is most distracting at very tender moments when the actors use softer voices. Because the tale is legendary, the issue doesn’t poison the overall effect. It just annoyingly stabs it… several times. Down & Dirty Romeo & Juliet is an entertaining one-of-a-kind theatrical experience…every show!

  
  
Rating: ★★★
    
   

Performance Times and Locations (more to come)

        
Monday, May 16th, 7:30pm
Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan
Tickets only $3 
Buy Tickets
  Thursday, May 19th, 7:00 PM
The Spot, 4437 N. Broadway
Tickets: $18 
Buy Tickets
            
Sunday, May 22nd, 7:30pm 
Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan  
Tickets: $18
Buy Tickets
  Tuesday, May 24th, 7:00pm
Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Tickets $18
Buy tickets
       
Sunday, May 29th, 7:00pm
Justins, 3358 N. Southport  
Tickets: $18
Buy Tickets
   July 17th, 24th and 31st
Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph
Times and Tickets: TBA

Angie Shriner (Juliet) and Dion Rice (Romeo) star in Shattered Globe Theatre’s interactive and ever-changing production of DOWN & DIRTY ROMEO & JULIET playing at various Chicago venues. (Photo: Kevin Viol)Running Time:  Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission

  
  

Continue reading

REVIEW: Stage Door (Griffin Theatre)

Huge, hugely talented cast gives their all to ‘Stage Door’

 JeanineBowlwareMechellemoeStacieBarraErinMeyerSkylerSchremmpJenniferBetancourt

 
Griffin Theatre Company presents
 
Stage Door
 
By Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman
Directed by Robin Witt
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. (map)
though May 23 | tickets: $18-$28 | more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

One of the most overlooked and underrated writers of the 20th century, Edna Ferber brilliantly showcased the lives of working women in her keenly stories. In the 1936 Stage Door, Ferber and George S. Kaufman crafted an impressive and charming drama about one such downtrodden group.

MechelleMoeatpaino Set in the Footlights Club, a New York boardinghouse for theatrical women, the story follows the lives of the young contenders of Broadway. Hoping for their big break, they subsist on hope and pennies … and often succumb to temptations away from the stage. For the luckiest, Hollywood lures; for others, love, or security, or pure hopelessness.

No one would write a play like this today, and Griffin deserves tremendous props for producing it all. It’s not that its themes haven’t been covered in subsequent plays — 1991’s I Hate Hamlet, for instance, takes on similar Broadway vs. Hollywood issues — but that the cast is huge. There are 32 distinct characters, played in this production by a cast of 27. Quite literally, they don’t make ’em like this anymore!

What’s more, when I say "distinct characters," I mean just that. Each is skillfully introduced, significant and a unique personality that adds to the heart and spunk of this rich play. Director Robin Witt brings out those traits to the fullest.

Mechelle Moe stars as the central character: plucky, generous Terry Randall, who’s been trying to make a go of it on Broadway for three years. Despite her lack of success, she remains stagestruck. "We live and breathe theater and that’s what I’m crazy about," she says.

Her friends tell her she’s talented, but she hasn’t managed more than a few weeks of work in all her time in New York. The play suggests that’s because she’s not beautiful and doesn’t appear well offstage. It’s perhaps a slight flaw in the script that we never see Terry acting, and can’t judge for ourselves. Moe’s own performance occasionally seems too gung-ho, like the young Judy Garland enthusing about putting on a play in the barn, but she makes the audience care about Terry.

We do get to judge the talents of Olga Brandt, a classically trained pianist who earns a living playing for dance rehearsals. "For that I studied fifteen years with Kolijinsky!" she says in disgust, and solaces herself by playing Chopin on the boardinghouse piano. Janeane Bowlware is both a skilled musician and delightfully funny in this difficult role. (In a nice theatrical in-joke, during most of the play, the piano’s music stand displays sheet music from Show Boat, the Jerome KernOscar Hammerstein musical based on Ferber’s 1926 novel.)

We also see some fine comic turns from Sara McCarthy as Bernice Niemeyer, the house busybody; Erin Meyers as the man-hating Ann Braddock; Ashley Neal and Christina Gorman as Big Mary and Little Mary, a Mutt and Jeff duo; and Kate McGroarty as Pat Devine, a leggy dancer earning her living in nightclub shows.

Other notable performances include Stacie Barra, archly dry as Terry’s cynical friend Judith Canfield, and Jeremy Fisher, strong as Keith Burgess, the earnest young playwright on whom Terry pins her hopes. Lucy Carapetyan is ardent as Jean Maitland, who urges Terry to go with her to Hollywood.

mechellemoeJamesFarruggio Maggie Cain gives us a matter-of-fact Mattie, the boardinghouse’s maid of all work, and Chuck Filipov a subtle performance as Frank, a teenage household helper, while Mary Anne Bowman alternately fawns and frowns as Mrs. Orcutt, a one-time actress turned boardinghouse manager.

Judith Lesser and Mary Poole play a compelling scene as Linda Shaw, sneaking in after a night with wealthy married man, and her unexpectedly visiting mother.

Marika Engelhardt plays Madeleine Vauclain, an actress from Seattle, trying to find a double date for visiting hometown conventioneers — Jeff Duhigg and Paul Popp, as a pair of buffoonish Pacific Northwest lumbermen. Rakisha Pollard is brave as Louise Mitchell, an unsuccessful actress sadly leaving Broadway to marry the boy back home in Wisconsin.

It feels like hair-splitting to point out the few flaws. James Farruggio seems a little stiff as David Kingsley, the moviemakers’ agent who urges Terry to stick to the stage, and Caroline Neff is a bit too detached as Kaye Hamilton, Terry’s desperate and destitute roommate.

D’wayne Taylor doubles as a Hollywood producer and as Terry’s father, a small-town Indiana doctor. He acts well in both parts, but he stands out oddly as the one African American in the company, making me wonder what led Witt to cast him. Color-blind casting works well when it’s done with consistency, but if you’re going to suspend historical accuracy for the sake of diversity, you need more than a token. When all the rest of such a large cast is white, it jars suspension of disbelief to have the sole black person in the show play the father of a white woman.

Filling out the cast, Jennifer Betancourt plays Bobby Melrose, a Southern belle; Morgan Maher is her boyfriend, Sam Hastings, an actor from Texas. Joey deBettencourt portrays Jimmy Devereaux, a confident would-be actor who hasn’t ever auditioned for a professional part; Skyler Schrempp, Susan Paige, perpetual understudy; and Erin O’Shea Kendall Adams, daughter of a family of Boston Brahmins.

Witt stages the show in three acts, with two intermissions — a 1930s convention that always makes feel as if I’ve really been to the theater — and blocks it beautifully, particularly in a wonderful Act III scene that puts nearly all the cast onstage. Marianna Csaszar‘s convincing set, built around a central staircase, helps to give the wide-ranging scenes focus.

Stage Door was the basis of the 1937 film of the same name, but the movie’s plot bears little similarity to this delicious play (which seems rather a meta-joke in itself). Don’t miss this rarely performed gem.

 
Rating: ★★★½
 

MechelleStacieCaroline

Continue reading