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'Romeo and Juliet' off-Broadway: Art imitates ignorance!

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I have not yet seen the new off-Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet, but I’m already a fan of the concept. As heard on NPR (and read in a glowing New York Times review), the classic love story is performed in a mock-traditional Shakespearean style (“all tights and gesticulations”), but through the exact words of eight people — including the stars Robert M. Johanson and Anne Gridley — who’d been phoned and asked to recollect the plot off the top of their heads. The creators came up with the idea when they couldn’t remember how the story unfolded. In co-director Pavol Liska’s defense, that’s because he never actually read it.

The results are said to be hilarious as details are forgotten (“Romeo gets in a fight with some guy with a very flourishy name like Euristhepis or something like that”), tangents are taken (“It’s sort of like Anna Nicole…. You know, like, she went into the Bahamas. Do you remember when you found out about Anna Nicole? Yes, to me it’s kind of like 9/11”), and new insights are offered. “One bizarrely priapic interpretation seems to position the play as a Shakespearean ode to onanism, with Romeo depicted as a serial masturbator,” says the Times. “This version includes a scene I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen staged, in which Juliet’s ‘former fiancé’ Paris engages in an act of self-pleasure over her corpse (‘or something’).”

Do you think this treatment sounds as potentially genius as I do? What other tales would you like to see told this way? (Hearing people mix up Jane Austen novels and use movie actors’ names instead of characters’ could be fun.) And while we’re talking about asking people to share the plot of classics you haven’t read…when was the last time you did just that? (For me it was two nights ago, when my 14-year-old step-niece took me through A Tale of Two Cities. The funniest thing was when my sister sat down mid-conversation, heard a particularly disturbing plot point, and asked, “Is this something you wrote or something you read?”)

Photo Credit: Paula Court