Sunday, February 07, 2010

Romeo and Bernadette

You just thought he was dead! Romeo, that is. No, he didn't die when he drank that poison at the end of ROMEO AND JULIET. Because it wasn't poison at all; just a sleeping potion that put him out for a few centuries. And when Romeo awakens, he finds himself in 1960 Brooklyn, chasing a girl he believes is his beloved Juliet. But no, it's not Juliet - it's Bernadette, the beautiful, sassy daughter of a local mobster. Romeo finds himself aligned with the rival crime family and… poor Romeo! It seems he's got what the therapists would call, “a pattern.” But unlike Shakespeare's account of the tale, ROMEO AND BERNADETTE barrels along with dames, dons and dizzy comedy to a happy ending, accompanied by some of the world's most recognizable Italian melodies, famous from movies, television and many, many pizzerias.

In the cast are Rep's two "Young Turks". First, there's PJ Valerio who plays Romeo, and whose romantic features and image are perfect for the role. He is at once passionate and courtly, but woefully innocent.I admired the fact that he did his homework and did the Shakespearean manner of speaking very well and he did it practically throughout the performance. In addition, his body language is constantly in classical pose, setting him apart from the familiar slouch of the present time. Then there's Romeo's counter ego Dino del Canto, played by Red Concepcion. Where Romeo is romantic and sweet, Dino is down to earth, in-your-face sexuality personified with tremendously charged energy. It's interesting to note that the two had been together in other Rep productions, handling major roles.

If there's Romeo, then there must be a Juliet. Indeed there is. But she's Bemadette and she's no delicate lily either. Cris Villonco takes on the role of this vulgar, sexy, spoiled brat who, deep within, is a well of tenderness capable of true love.

While everyone else in the cast has one specific role he/she can focus on, mere's someone who has eight. And the guy doing all of this is no pushover, either. Rem Zamora takes on this humongous challenge with great ease and energy - and a sense of humor only he can give. And he's also Assistant Director. To give you an idea, here's a litany of his roles: He's an accordionist, an opera-style singer, a nervous airport immigration agent, a gay flamboyant florist, an Irish priest, a dominating female dance instructor, a female dressmaker, and a father to Donna. And then, he has to contend with three accents: Russian, Irish and Brooklyn.Romeo and Bernadette pulls the audience into the action and the complicity is disarming.I really loved it..It was well written, hilarious and extraordinarily funny.The play has been meticulously staged and directed. The set is dominated by a pair of overhanging balconies. (Where would Romeo be without a balcony?) Farce depends upon timing, and the timing here is impeccable.

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