Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending
nytheatre.com review by Carissa Cordes
August 13, 2011
In the original Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, there are two feuding families in fair Verona, the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo (James Waters), a Montague, is pining after a girl Rosaline (Katie Jeffries). However, Romeo falls in love at first sight with a Capulet, Juliet (Kyra Corradin). After they are hastily married, Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt (Matthew Sparacino), starts a fight with Mercutio (Jayme Bell). Romeo tries to stop the fight but Tybalt slays Mercutio under Romeo’s arm. Romeo pursues Tybalt, killing him. Then Romeo and Juliet have their wedding night and Romeo escapes Verona. The Capulets arrange an immediate marriage for Juliet, so she decides to take a potion, faking her death. The messenger sent to Romeo with the information on Juliet’s plan never reaches Romeo. Romeo hears that Juliet has died so he sneaks in and, seeing Juliet dead, he poisons himself. When Juliet wakes up to see her one love dead next to her, she takes Romeo’s knife/sword and stabs herself.
The young theatre company The Impressionable Players asks the question: what would happen if Romeo did not pursue Juliet, but held out for Rosaline? Well, actually, Romeo asks the audience to decide that question at three pivotal moments of the play: Romeo asks the audience to choose whether or not to pursue Juliet, whether or not to fight Tybalt, and what to do when he is banished. The audience decides with a show of hands and the path of the show is chosen.
Using some of Shakespeare’s original text and splicing it with modern language turned into Elizabethan verse, the cast charges full force into one of eight stories. Their version starts with a prologue, half modern and half original text. The story begins with Romeo pining for Rosaline and the tone is immediately set for a comedic performance. The version I saw was a primarily comedic performance with a few dramatic moments.
I understand there are a few endings with hidden characters and surprise endings. My audience decided Romeo should not meet Juliet and stick it out for Rosaline and fight Tybalt. Mercutio lived, but Benvolio (Rob Mueller) and Juliet were the star-crossed lovers.
These young players have high energy and a lot of enthusiasm. There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor with some great specific moments and overall the show is enjoyable. The performance I saw did have some of the technical misfortune that falls upon FringeNYC shows with some of the lights not working….it made for a very interesting, yet unintentional, look.
There are the makings of some serious physical comics in Jayme Bell and Rob Mueller. Rosaline (Katie Jeffries) is perhaps the most interesting character. With Jeffries skillfully playing the comedic and dramatic moments, she was a delight to watch. Kyra Corradin’s Juliet is fascinating in that it is not a typical Juliet; she takes charge and is kind of goofy.
Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending is a pick for anyone looking for some high-energy comedy poking (a little) fun at the Bard.