Hell is other people!
Jean Paul Sartre
Welcome to hell! Enjoy or not!
Violin Femme (Jennifer Novak Chun playing her deadly violin and greeting guests in the theater)
Oh, Jesus! Another reboot of the Shakespearean classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. What more can be done to this doomed couple who fell in love with a single glance? What can renowned playwright Matt Ritchey (Martha Washington Killed a Redcoat, Blackboxing) possibly do to give a fresh, take on this tragic story? It turns out…..ALOT! Ritchey has the passionate couple face their biggest fears—themselves and they learn to either roll with it or get rolled over.
Romeo and Juliet (Colton Butcher and Lauren Diaz were phenomenal) have died and take a journey to the world below. Their tour guide is the Oscar and nine-time Tony award winner director Bob Fosse (Kawika Aguilar plays the tumultuous director to the hilt). With his Michael Jackson wearing glittery shoes, gloves and fedora, Bob is there to make the transition smoother, or so we are led to believe. The couple still don’t understand how they got the hell in the first place. Well, suicide is a sin, mix that with some foul things they have done either to themselves or to others and that promises a spot on the road downward. When you see a sign that reads “Abandon Hope,” it’s time to keep it moving.
Also in hell are Othello (Brenton Sullivan) whose punishment is to elongate the word “more” because he’s a Moor. Cute! All his beloved Desdemona (Chloe Zubiri) can do is look pretty when her man acts a fool. One woman who doesn’t stay quiet is Lady Macbeth. The absolutely wonderful Therese Olson nailed this role by acting like she’s off her meds. Her combination of freaking out, rabid hysteria and the continuous rubbing “out, (the) damned spot!” from the tops of her hands makes it fun to watch her descend into madness. Her hubby Macbeth (Graydon Schlichter) gets an aneurysm whenever his name is said aloud in the theater, which means bad luck. Mercutio and Tybalt (Nick Ley and Carlos Chavez) aren’t very supportive in advising the ill-fated pair on their next move. Other than standing, looking cute and spewing out sarcastic venom, they are not very helpful. There is no bromance between Hamlet and nemesis Laertes (Mikael Mattsson and David Chernyavsky). Hamlet gives his famous ‘Alas, poor Yorick!’ speech while holding the former court jester’s skull in his hand while giving his former friend the side-eye. Distrust is a major issue with everyone.
Three characters who stand out in the most comical way are King Lear (Ron Gabaldon as hysterical) and Tony, a character from the 1961 film “West Side Story” (J. Elijah Cho). Tony is the updated version of Romeo from the multi-Oscar winning film. He stands by the curtain, looking cool and smoking while watching and laughing at the others. King Lear is actually Charlton Heston playing Moses while disguising himself as King Lear. A third character who is heard and not seen is The Bard himself. David Graybill voices the playwright. He takes on the role as concerned father speaking in a non-threatening yet, threatening tone when a child has done wrong and the pitch in their parent’s voice, warns them that a whipping is in their immediate future. Ritchey’s creative genius is maddening but lots of fun to deconstruct.
The show is a great way to spend the night. Lots of hearty laughter, great actors doing what they do best and not knowing what will happen, it’s better that way so the surprise will feel authentic, guarantees a great time. Ritchey is the new master of suspense but an old soul on getting the laughs in grim situations.
Romeo and Juliet in Hell plays Fridays and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. until Saturday, November 23rd, playing at the Actors Workout Studio, located at 4735 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood. Tickets are $20. For reservations log on to www.fonprods.tix.com.