When someone invites me to their house, I expect to feel at home. Give me something to drink. Maybe something to eat. Ask me to take my shoes off but let me have the option of keeping them on. Make me feel welcomed and loved. And if a fight should breakout, ensure no one gets hurt. And above all, entertain me! So, Friday night I was at Sean Graney’s home....
The Hypocrites presents the world premiere of ROMEO JULIET. Since everyone knows Shakespeare’s most famous play, I’ll skip the re-cap(ulet). Adapter and director Sean Graney re-imagines the love story as a love experience. Graney stages the show intimately. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed with a cup of hot tea and glitter markers. The four hosts are the 4 ensemble members. The cast uses an arts and crafts project to mingle with their guests. It’s cute and personable.
Next, we are ushered into the actual showroom. It’s almost like walking into a tent. The four sides are lined with banquettes. Only about thirty people fit. We sit in a square formation. It’s cozy and sensual. Everything about this show works toward connecting us to a sensory awakening. We are encouraged to walk barefoot on a white, fluffy carpet. Later, we peel and eat oranges. Bedsheets form the harem-like atmosphere. And real vinyl LPs are spinning on the record player. The ambiance, although somewhat contrived, gets me in the mood to be aroused. It’s like when a guy uses his best gimmicks to get laid but the gal arrives wanting it. Special efforts are always appreciated even if they aren’t necessary. In this show, touch, taste, smell are effectively blended into the standard theatrical visual and audio.
And the actual play? The ensemble are in-your-face great! Under the direction of Graney, Walter Briggs, Tien Doman, Lindsey Gavel and Zeke Sulkes are in constant motion swirling from one character to the next. Each change of persona is announced in a subtle introduction. They engage the audience by intermingling Shakespearean prose with contemporary language. There are moments of sheer hilarity. And there are exchanges between Briggs (Romeo) and Gavel (Juliet) that are tragically beautiful. At one point, I can’t hear their conversation because Doman and Sulkes are going at it in the corner. They have an excessive make-out session three feet from me. I feel the awkwardness of where-to-look-as-to-not-be-accused-of-PDA-gawking. The close proximity isn’t always icky sometimes it’s scary. The fights scenes, choreographed by Ryan Borque are thrilling. The foursome energetically attack and it’s exhilarating!
Graney achieves a full-bodied experience in ROMEO JULIET. You can touch, smell, taste, and hear it. But if you want to see it, move quick because seating is limited and tickets will go fast.
Hanging my glittered heart on the wall, James describes it with ‘tis torture and mercy.’
Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street
Written by Felice Romani and William Shakespeare
Adapted and directed by Sean Graney
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm and 10pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru July 1st
Buy Tickets at www.the-hypocrites.com