Review: Roustabout Theatre’s modern love triangle ‘Romeo’ is frothy fun
The premise for The Roustabout Theatre Co.’s new comedy “Romeo, Romeo & Juliet” can be told in a nutshell: She loves him, but he loves another him.
Yet despite the script’s basic love triangle plot, playwright Ruff Yeager has crafted something witty and fresh. The play is a charming and fast-paced romp that celebrates the joy and camaraderie of theater and the power of William Shakespeare’s words.
Roustabouts — which specializes in producing new plays by local playwrights — is midway through its second season at Moxie Theatre in Rolando, where “Romeo” made its world premiere Friday.
“Romeo” takes place backstage in a rundown 18th-century Cape Cod barn theater where tightly wound stage director Simon is in the final week of rehearsals for a summer stock production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Veteran company actor Tracy is ready to go as Romeo but his leading lady has unexpectedly quit for a better-paying gig in an off Broadway show. After exhausting every other option for a new Juliet, Simon reluctantly hires Nancy, a malaprop-prone small-town Utah girl who can’t really act and has never performed Shakespeare.
As in Tom Stoppard’s film screenplay “Shakespeare in Love,” the actors playing the star-crossed lovers in “Romeo and Juliet” are transformed by the Bard’s poetry and emboldened to follow their hearts. For Nancy, it’s a misguided crush on Tracy. And for Tracy, it’s his unrequited love for Simon.
Yeager, a onetime summer stock actor himself, has filled the script with behind-the-scenes theatrical nuggets like the goofy vocal exercises that actors practice, a tyrannical never-seen costume designer and a few diva-like backstage meltdowns.
Director Kim Strassburger keeps the action moving at blazing speed and occasionally too-high volume. She finds wonderful nuance in the moments where Simon draws vastly different readings of the same lines from his actors with the subtlest of suggestive nudges.
Michelle Marie Trester is a wonder as the sheltered Mormon college student Nancy. She takes her character on a believable journey from loud, awkward, sheltered novice to confident, open-hearted and talented actress.
Michael Silberblatt is witty, fast on his feet and a strong physical comedian as Tracy. He’s also a natural at Shakespearean text and his sonnet recitations are lovely.
Brian Mackey’s frantic performance as the one-the-edge director Simon provides some of the show’s funniest moments, but his line delivery is so rushed at times that it’s hard to keep up.
Yeager designed sound, Jordyn Smiley designed costumes and Curtis Mueller designed lighting. The play runs one hour, 45 minutes with intermission.
“Romeo, Romeo & Juliet” is sharing the stage this week with Roustabout’s “Solo Show Contest,” a quartet of new solo plays featuring local actors at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Creating new plays is hard work and not always financially rewarding, but Roustabouts’ commitment will pay off this summer with “Romeo, Romeo & Juliet,” a sweet love letter to theater and the people who make it.
“Romeo, Romeo & Juliet”
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through July 8.
Where: Roustabouts Theatre Co. at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Rolando District.
Phone: (619) 728-7820
firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @pamkragen
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