Ah, it's just the way you've always imagined Romeo and Juliet: four tough, street-talkin', testosterone-pumped guyz, reenacting Shakespeare's romantic tragedy as an exercise that becomes more and more real. This visceral adaptation has been at Off-Broadway's John Houseman Studio Theatre since Jan. 14 and will continues its well-reviewed open run, according to spokesperson Michael Cullen.
R & J was first staged Sept. 1997 by the Off-Off-Broadway troupe Expanded Arts. Good reviews helped move their Romeo and Juliet (now re-titled R & J) to midtown. In this adaptation, four boys school students stage drama for their own entertainment but then get caught up in their roles.
Said adapter and director Joe Calarco in a statement, "I wanted to get to the essence of what I think Shakespeare is: passionate, violent, thrilling and theatrical. By cutting the cast down to four men, we've been able to explore the way men interact and how they view women, sex and masculinity. The concept of students in a private school was created in order to mirror Shakespeare's Verona and [its] stifling, repressive, forbidden world."
Romeo and Juliet are, of course, "star-crossed" lovers kept apart by their warring families. When they finally fall in love anyway, a tragic mis timing leads to their mutual suicides. Other plays by William Shakespeare include Cymbeline, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Titus Andronicus.
Still starring in R & J (as of Mar. 25) are Sean Dugan, Danny Gurwin, Greg Shamie and Daniel Shore. Costumes are minimal, as are settings and props; lighting is by Jeffrey T. Lowney. R & J, which is produced by Frederic B. Vogel, Bruce Lazarus and Roger Alan Gindi, officially opened Jan. 22 at the John Houseman Studio Theatre, 450 West 42nd St. For tickets ($40) and information call (212) 354-2220.
-- By David Lefkowitz