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Shakespeare's R & J

Shakespeare's R & J
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Joe Calarco
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 77
Pub. Date: 1999
ISBN-10: 0822216795
ISBN-13: 9780822216797
Cast Size: 3 women, 4 men

About the Play:

Shakespeare's R&J is a full-length drama by Joe Calarco. When a repressive all-male Catholic boarding school bans Romeo and Juliet in favour of Latin conjugations and the Ten Commandments, four students unearth a secret copy of the script and steal into the night to recite the prohibited tale of adolescent passion. What begins as a lark gradually yields surprising discoveries about greed, love, and adulthood. A refreshing contemporary adaptation of Shakespare's Romeo and Juliet. Four actors with no set, no costume changes and no props bring the essence of this classic tragedy vividly alive with the sheer theatricality of this timeless story.

Shakespeare's R&J gives us a different slant on Romeo and Juliet: A repressive all-male Catholic boarding school bans "Romeo and Juliet" in favour of Latin conjugations and the Ten Commandments. Four young prep school students, tired of going through the usual drill of conjugating Latin and other tedious school routines, decide to vary their very governed lives. After school, one breaks out a copy of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and they all take turns reading the play aloud. The Bard's words and the story itself are thrilling to the boys and they become swept away, enmeshed in the emotion so much so that they break school rules in order to continue their readings. The rigidity of their lives begins to parallel the lives of the characters in the play: roles in the family, roles in society and the roles played by men and women soon seem to make all the sense in the world, and then, suddenly, they seem to make no sense at all. Although they had been taking turns playing all the parts, two eventually emerge playing Romeo and Juliet exclusively, bringing a whole new dimension to the proceedings. Perceptions and understanding are turned upside down as the fun of play acting turns serious and the words and meanings begin to hit home and universal truths emerge.

Shakespeare's R&J was first presented in 1997 at the Expanded Arts Theatre Company's storefront on New York's lower East Side. It then opened in 1998 at the John Houseman Theatre where it ran for over a year (385 performances) making it the longest running version of Romeo and Juliet in New York. This acclaimed adaptation earned Joe Calarco a Lucille Lortel Award. The play completed a celebrated run in London's West End and received rave reviews on its subsequent tours of the U.K. and Australia.

Cast: 3 women, 4 men

What people say:

"This is a thrilling piece of work, both study aid and gripping theatre." — The Sunday Times

"I'd forgotten the play could be so good. I seemed to hear the words for the first time." — The Times

"Prepare for a bracing and brilliant shock to the system ... an inspired new theatrical take on this early masterpiece." — The Independent

"Shakespeare's R&J, a vibrant, hot-blooded new adaptation of Romeo and Juiliet … pulsates with an adolescent abandon and electricity of which Romeo himself might approve." — The New York Times

"Shakespeare's R&J is a gem, the most inventive reimagining of a classic in years." — Wall Street Journal

"It's a passionately energetic, thoroughly absorbing show that is as much about the forbidden love between men as about the taboo love between young people from enemy families … Shakespeare's R&J really resonates." — New York Newsday

"Joe Calarco's new deconstruction of Romeo and Juiliet … goes to show – the right hands can do nothing wrong to Shakespeare … We shall doubtless hear further from Calarco…." — New York Post

"Calarco sets the lush, lyrical story of doomed lovers in the repressed atmosphere of a modern Catholic boarding school. The result…is brave and original." — New York Daily News

About the Playwright:

Joe Calarco is an American theatre director known best for his adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare's R&J). He is currently an Artistic Associate at Signature Theatre, Virginia.