Faction of Fools Theatre Company, DC’s Commedia dell’Arte theater company, continues its 15th anniversary season with a remount of a foolish favorite: A Commedia Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s classic story of two young lovers divided by a family feud borrows heavily from the tradition of the Renaissance Italian Comedy. Last performed in 2012, Faction’s high-octane version of Romeo and Juliet, featuring five actors in a one-hour performance, brings physical spectacularity to Shakespeare’s poetry and highlights the tragedy by juxtaposing it with humor. This 2024 remount is performed by two rotating casts, both alike in dignity: the “Montague Cast” and the “Capulet Cast.”
Faction of Fools has entertained audiences since 2009 through the hallmarks of Commedia dell’Arte: masks, physical comedy, and recognizable archetypes. A Commedia Romeo and Juliet is a Romeo and Juliet unlike any other. Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Commedia dell’Arte, and A Commedia Romeo and Juliet reunites a beloved playwright with western history’s most influential theater style. His story of squabbling fathers, poetry-spouting lovers, and meddling servants draws heavily on the characters and conventions of Commedia dell’Arte. However, while classical Italian comedy almost always concludes with a wedding, Shakespeare’s tale continues past the nuptials as hatred and fate prohibit a happy ending. By utilizing masks and physical specificity from Commedia dell’Arte, Faction of Fools injects the comedy back into Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, allowing the tragic turns to cut all the more deeply.
Director Kathryn Zoerb will refresh the piece, grounded in the original production as conceived and directed by Founding Artistic Director Matthew R. Wilson, but facilitate the exceptionalism of the new cast, designers, and pedagogical work Faction has been honing the past three years. This remount of A Commedia Romeo and Juliet features new masks designed and fabricated by Tara Cariaso of Waxing Moon Masks and original music composed by Jesse Terrill. The original and ingenious “Pandora’s Box” set design by Daniel Flint is lovingly refurbished and elevated by remount Set Designer Johnny Weissgerber, costumes revitalized and retooled by original and remount Costume Designer Lynly A. Saunders, and lighting and sound design crisply updated by William K. D’Eugenio.
Starring in the rotating casts of A Commedia Romeo and Juliet are returning Fools Deimoni Brewington, Francesca Chilcote, Natalie Cutcher, Bri Houtman, Ben Lauer, Mary Myers, and Jasmine Proctor along with performers making their foolish debut: Travis Xavier Brown, Max Johnson, and Bob Pike. The production team is rounded out with Megan Behm as Intimacy Choreographer, Renea Brown as Text Coach, Gwen Grastof as Original Production Consultant, Rachel Spicknall Mulford as Acro-Balance Choreographer, Samantha Owen as Stage Manager, Matthew Pauli as Assistant Director, and Cris Ruthenberg-Marshall as Production Manager.
A Commedia Romeo and Juliet plays January 19 through February 3, 2024, presented by Faction of Fools performing at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th Street SE, Washington, DC. Tickets ($15–$35) can be purchased at the door or online.
Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes with no intermission
Family-friendly, contains some PG-13 content.
COVID Safety: Medical-mask-required performances are on Saturday, January 27, at 2 pm and Saturday, February 3, at 2 pm. Masks will be available at the box office. For all other performances, masks are not required.