Monday, August 15, 2011

REVIEWS: "Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love"

For the past six summers, the Actors’ Gang—a theatre ensemble company based in Culver City, California—has produced a free mid-day show in August for families.

The shows are liberally adapted from Shakespeare, made to be kid-and-family friendly with an emphasis on fun and earthy comedy, and feature the Actors’ Gang trademark commedia dell'arte style of acting. While the adaptations are greatly abridged, the shows nevertheless preserve portions of the original text, meaning that the shows are often in verse and can never be accused of “talking down” to its audience. Indeed, the shows include plenty of humor and modern-day references as a wink to parents and adults.

The Actors’ Gang is famous for its guerrilla stye of theater and the ensemble set the tone early for the series by hilariously reducing “Titus Andronicus”—one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest R-rated plays—to a feud involving clowns, its bloodiest parts presented as a slow-mo whipped cream pie fight. Other recent adaptations include “King O’Leary,” a presentation of King Lear brought to California’s Gold Rush days and “The Taming of the Shrew.”

This year’s show, currently running through the end of August, is “Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love,” about the star-crossed love between a vampire (Romeo) and a zombie (Juliet). Their families are made up of a cornucopia of monsters and one of the highlights of the show is the cast dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” during the masquerade ball where Romeo meets Juliet. As always, the show is full of laughs, punctuated by fun musical stingers and cues.

The show is intended for families and children, but is just as entertaining for adults. As I do every year, I highly recommend it—this year’s show ranks among the best, I think, of the productions.

“Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love” is presented free of charge in Media Park, adjacent to the Actors’ Gang’s theatre at The Ivy Substation Saturdays and Sundays at 11am, August 6 – August 28, 2011. Running time approximately 45 minutes.

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