By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
You can smell what's coming, right? They get to the ball scene, where Romeo kisses Juliet for the first time. Alford and Farris, playing it absolutely seriously, lay on a big smooch, just as they do later in the wedding scene. They kiss hard, these guys. They grind it. Yes, boys kissing! In public! In Plano! Grab your purse, Margie, we're going home.
Except that's not really the whole story. It would be too easy to blame some boy-boy lip action for angry audience defections. But only a couple of theatergoers at the second preview could be heard grousing about that particular aspect of the show. One lady did burst into the sound booth at the back of the theater to proclaim the play "Pure trash!" as she stomped out. Her appearance so unnerved the board operator, he missed his next cue.
No, liplocks aside, the main reason the audience heads for the hills is that they're bored out of their gourds (the very reason given by the four nice old ladies sitting next to me and my companion). Shakespeare's R & J is nothing more than an excuse to mount a stripped-down Romeo and Juliet without a full cast, costume changes, set or well-directed performances of the Bard's poetry--basically, without all the things that make a Shakespeare play watchable when done well. PRT's cast is reasonably attractive to look at but miserable to listen to, all weak in vocal training. Line readings vary from loud to louder. Harper hollers his dialogue with all the finesse of a vendor hawking hot dogs in a ballpark. Pointer's way of making a point is to slap the other actors hard on their chests.
The boys stomp, yell, scream and shout on a stark black and white set by Randel Wright. It's like watching Shakespeare done in cell block H at juvenile hall.
By the end of two and a half long, long hours, the young lovers finally get to groping each other's corpses in the tomb. "Drink that poison!" hissed my companion. "And pass it around!"