Think you’ve seen all the Shakespeare you need to see? Think there is nothing more we can tap from this century’s old well of tales?? Can you possibly be even THINKING that we don’t need another retelling of R&J, but this time set in America at a confusingly vague time period?!
You’re probably right.
Taking the “Romeo and Juliet” myth to New (Jerseyian) heights, Wayne Nicolosi, who opens the show reading from his iPhone, brings us to a new Verona. One about corruption! I think. And arranged marriages! For some reason. Many points remain vague and unfinished. Some appear to be headed towards a relatively interesting place and then just disappear. Deus Ex appears left and right.
Julie(t) is supposed to marry Romeo, a designer with eyes for another. Whether he knows it or not. Meanwhile, Mario, the carpenter employed to build his ill-designed balcony, falls MADLY in lust with Juliet. Wackiness ensues. Father Montague and Papa Cap (my bad pun, not theirs) have some kind of back-alley mob-esque dealings transpiring and are pushing for the wedding to push the plans to fruition. I wouldn’t worry too much about the plot. It takes a back seat to a lot of puns about the Dirty Jerz, the Bard, and those wacky closeted gays.
Many things can be said about this show. Of the best: Allen Andrews does a splendid job of crafting the character of Mario: an artistic soul in a blue collar world. Ashley Zielinski is a beautiful and fun take on the spoiled rich girl Juliet. The chemistry between these two is great.
Cristen Stephanksy does commendable work throwing in the oddly placed moments of Shakespearean text. The playwright does well to make enough jokes to keep fans of the Bard happy. Liam Rowland is the high point of the show, playing both Mercutio and Tybalt with fantastic gaiety. Pun intended. Also, the costumes were lots of fun!
That is almost all that can be said in favor of this show. Running a surprising 105 intermission-less minutes, the audience feels almost every last second of this show. Clearly under-rehearsed, the audience is left in ghost lighting for up to a minute at a time as the actors crash through set changes. Though rudimentary set pieces, one oft thinks “Why HAVE those boxes been sitting in the background of every scene?” “Is the Jimi Hendrix room-divider supposed to be indicative of the time period, or am I just reading too far into a thing they found on the street before the show?” and “Did the actor leave the stage during his monologue to look at his lines?”. There are a lot of scene changes, each more Fringey than the one preceding it.
The Tragedy of Mario and Juliet
Written by Wayne Nicolosi
Details and tickets
The script has moments of cuteness at best. At its worst it is convoluted, confusing, and a little judgemental towards its “effeminate” characters. There is a “live” “foley” used during some of the show. You will understand the quotation marks if you see it. Sometimes there are loud crashes in blackout that made me more than a little concerned that an actor or crew member had died. Despite using multiple recorded versions of popular songs, the director felt the need to have two of them awkwardly sung, acappella, off stage.
This has nothing to do with the performance on stage, but a quick note about the venue. We, as reviewers, have been told repeatedly that no one would be allowed in if they were so much a minute late. This venue appeared to have an open door policy with the last audience member showing up around the 50 minute-mark. Folks were allowed to come and go as they pleased. I considered going out for a smoke repeatedly, and I’m four and a half years quit.
The script may not have made it easy for the actors, and some of the performances fell short, but, having seen many a Fringe show, this is not the biggest Tragedy you’re likely to see.
The Tragedy of Mario and Juliet. Written and Directed by Wayne Nicolosi. Starring Allen Andrews, Brian Binney, John Daniel Gore, Wayne Nicolosi, Liam Rowland, Dakota Schuck, Cristen Stephanksy, Ashley Zielinski. Designed and stage managed by Brendan Fitzpatrick. Reviewed by Christian Sullivan.