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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

'Juliet and Romeo' Puts Women in Control

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Bad Example's Juliet and Romeo is an interesting exercise that creates an enjoyable and novel theatrical experience. Playwrights Theresa Stefaniak and David Kaye have flipped the gender roles in Shakespeare's classic, so that women are in charge and men are subservient. The idea doesn't challenge stereotypes so much as move them around, but the flip in roles is a lot of fun.

Shannon Tyburski is exciting in the role of active heroine Juliet. Given all of Romeo's original lines, she manages to make their romance sing. Christopher Elst treads a difficult path, playing Romeo with words originally written for Juliet. He plays a passive man in love who must be moved to action. Elst walks the razor's edge between script and gender stereotypes with deftness. The chemistry between Tyburski and Elst is strong enough to make one wish Shakespeare had written more scenes between them. They lend authentic gravity to their first meeting, and their balcony scene is charming.

As with any production of Shakespeare, there are many other elements in the script beyond the central romance. Not all of them are executed well, but director Kaye manages to keep the show's stumbles as painless as possible. And there are moments of genius in the periphery as well. Michelle White sparkles with crazy energy as Mercutio. The final events of the play feel that much more inescapable because of her performance.

Bad Example's Juliet and Romeo runs through July 28 at the Alchemist Theatre. For ticket reservations, visit www.alchemisttheatre.com.