Five-Fifths of Romeo & Juliet

For the uninitiated: the Minnesota Fringe Festival puts on an annual fundraiser, in which they take a classic script, chop it into five pieces, give each piece to a separate theatre company to re-interpret however they wish, then presents them all back-to-back. This year’s production was bedeviled (be-angeled?) by a number of fortunate synchronicities, taking place on Cinco de Mayo and using as its source text William Shakespeare’s Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet — a text already neatly divided into five acts.

Two caveats: first, that one of my groups (the Rockstar Storytellers) was given a fifth; and, secondly, that the audience was so incredibly warm and responsive, it’s hard to imagine much of anything flopping in that environment. The energy in the room, as both audience and performer, was extraordinary, so I’m sure this will seem less like a review than a gushing fan letter, because, well, that’s what it is.

ACT ONE: FOUR HUMORS THEATER

Opening the shenanigans was Four Humors, of such hit shows as Inspector Rex, Deviled Eggs, and Bards. They kicked it off with some red-nose clowning — which I’ve gone on record as actively disliking in past reviews — but this is a classic example of clowning done absolutely *right* — simple, sincere, and fucking hilarious. Then they pull off the noses and do the ballet.

Yes, the ballet. No, they’re not ballerinas. (Well, they pulled a couple in for the title roles.)

The results of this were as side-splitting as you’d expect. I’d like to add the observation, too, that I think that part of what made this so successful was that it worked as homage, as well as parody — it was successful at conveying information about the plot and characters — in broad strokes, certainly, but I was able to follow the action clearly.

ACT TWO: ZEALOTS AND MYSTICS

…I missed, because I was backstage having my usual pre-show anxiety attack, vomiting into Mike Fotis’ hat.

ACT THREE: ROCKSTAR STORYTELLERS

…I co-wrote and performed in, so I will leave it to the discretion of others to analyze.

ACT FOUR: COMMEDIA BEAUREGARD

Now this is one that could easily have gone either way for me — a parody of old-school teen instructional movies, a la Reefer Madness — but scraped in as being very, very funny, I suspect in no small part due to the contribution of playwright Matt Everett, of whose snarky style I’m sure I could detect more than a few lines. Did an excellent job of exhausting the possibilities of the premise, introducing new twists, and sustaining running gags (such as the narrator’s offhand disgust with the characters) — it couldn’t have gone on for much longer, and I wasn’t waiting for it to be over. A flaky premise that managed to solid through and through. (I was working on some kind of pie metaphor, but it seemed to be hardly worth the effort.)

ACT FIVE: BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP

…closing down the evening (and bringing the house down) was the Brave New Workshop, with a piece co-written by comedy team Joe Bozic and Mike Fotis, also taking on the roles of the Lords Capulet and Montague. They actually seemed to take a similar approach to the title characters as our company did — as a pair of grating, ditzy, pseudo-surfer teens — with results that equalled awesome, particularly from their Juliet.

(Wandering behind the box office before the show started, I was startled to see Jeune Lune’s Ivey Awards, just sitting gathering dust under a shelf. Somewhere on the internet, there is a photograph of Mike Fotis holding them, Madonna-like, over his nipples. I won’t tell you where — I just want you to know that it’s out there.)

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2 Responses to “Five-Fifths of Romeo & Juliet”

  1. Courts Says:

    email me immediately with the url of Fotis with Ivey. My Google Image searching is coming up fruitless.

  2. Sierra Volk Says:

    About Invocation To Free Women:

    I was fortunate enough to see both the first and second performances of this astonishing production.

    (Full disclosure: i have worked with its director on stage in the past.)

    I can gladly confess that i was moved to tears both times.
    The array of Goddesses invoked — from a lithe and powerful young Artemis; a beautiful Yemaya undulating through the waves; a frightening and joyous Medusa; a solid and lovely Mother who wants her son off the cross, at long last (and whose song i defy you to hear without weeping); and a Crone, whose acceptance and welcoming of what is now and what is to come touched my spirit to its very core.

    The ensemble is just one note short of perfection as they blend and weave and tell us the tale. Moment after moment after moment, each a richness in and of itself, like a slice of apple dipped in honey, or a glance into the Goddess who is in us all, recognized or not. Deep truths, being spoken beautifully.

    The three musicians add a perfect background of sound and silence to that which is unfolding. And the actors themselves use incidental rhythm on an astonishing variety of found objects within their movement and play and dance and song and story, all to a wondrous effect. It is spell-binding in its cumulative effect, haunting in the finest sense of that word.

    I must congratulate (and most heartfeltedly thank) my former colleague Ms. Givens for what she has inspired and birthed, and her cast and musicians and techs for the great joy, energy, and inspiritedness they brought to fruition in the performances i saw.

    It was a Chinese-food experience: an hour later, i was wanting more.

    I still am.


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