Capital Fringe Review: “A Commedia Romeo and Juliet” by Jessica Vaughan

A Commedia Romeo and Juliet by DC Commedia dell’Arte troupe Faction of Fools Theare Company is Shakespeare like you’ve probably never seen it before performed by this company trained in the ancient art of clowning around. Director Matthew R. Wilson has created a mad hour-long rush through the play – highlighting the many comic and farcical moments that Shakespeare added to all his plays, comedy or tragedy. Wilson is also billed as the choreographer and though there is little dancing, that is the most accurate term for it. The entire play has been choreographed as these five actors inhabit every character in ingenious costumes by Lynly Saunders that can be changed onstage in seconds and a set by Daniel Flint of boxes within boxes within boxes that transform from confessional to columns to balcony and everything in between. This is Commedia so instead of all mourning Juliet, they pick her up and proceed to toss the actress around the stage in grief.

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Gwen Grastorf (Juliet) and Shane O’Loughlin (Romeo) are perfect as the star-crossed teens in addition to a number of other characters. Tyler Herman (Nurse) is a standout as a hilarious old woman. Justin Purvis (Mercutio) and Lindsey D. Snyder (Lady Capulet) also play many other roles, masked, sometimes with one sleeve and facing one direction as one character and the other sleeve as another. They jump from one to another with grace and ease.
Commedia and Shakespeare are both of the same era and it is fun to see these two forms mashed together. Still, comedy and Romeo and Juliet are a slight contradiction in terms and the frenzied pace plus playing tragedy for laughs makes for an occasional awkward beat, especially as the end draws near and deaths of two young people grow less and less funny.

Even so, and perhaps because of the lighter tone, it makes for an especially great introduction to Shakespeare as the language is easy to understand with the expressive acting style, and indeed, Faction of Fools takes this show on the road to schools to teach both the bard and Commedia. Young or old, if you like traditional art forms, modern laughs, and well-crafted productions, Faction of Fools succeeds again.

Running Time: 60 minutes.

A Commedia Romeo and Juliet plays through July 28, 2013 at Fort Fringe – The Shop – 607 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC. For performance times and to purchase tickets, visit the show’s Capital Fringe page.


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