Michelle Marie Trester in "Romeo, Romeo & Juliet." Photo by Daren Scott
Anything that pumps new life into the timeworn Romeo & Juliet is welcome. Not only is Shakespeare’s most famous love story a staple on world stages and in high school auditoriums alike, but the lovers tragedy has been filmed and adapted and reinvented to death. The balcony scene has become a literary cliché.
But there’s good news. That very balcony scene provides the backdrop for zany romantic tension in playwright Ruff Yeager’s farcical Romeo, Romeo & Juliet, a presentation of the Roustabouts Theatre, of which Yeager is a co-founder. His play is not a retelling of R&J but a triangular love story about a summer stock production of Romeo & Juliet somewhere on Cape Cod. In the course of rehearsal, principally of that balcony scene, passions simmer to the fore. Nancy (Michelle Marie Trester), who is playing Juliet, is a prattling goody two shoes from St. George, Utah, whose only vice is Sprite soda. But her naivete blossoms into lust for Tracy (Michael Silberblatt), who is playing Romeo. She is unaware that he’s gay and has himself fallen for the show’s neurotic director, Simon (Brian Mackey). Pop-eyed complications ensue in this briskly paced offering directed by Kim Strassburger.
While the story doesn’t deliver any particular surprises, the actors bring their best to the telling. Mackey, a standout already this year in Lamb’s Players Theatre’s wacky Noises Off, executes physical comedy like few others in town. Silberblatt is a graduate of the Coronado School of Arts with a resume that includes King Lear at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Making his local debut with the Roustabouts, he makes clear his intuition for Shakespeare’s exquisite language amid the fun. Partly because her character is the only one who changes during the course of Romeo, Romeo & Juliet and partly because she’s just so out there as Nancy, Trester is the rightful star of this production. Her bosom-clutching, soda-sipping Mormon girl is a genuine treat.
The Roustabouts are staging Romeo, Romeo & Juliet on at Moxie Theatre on a set designed to look like an old barn, which in the play is being employed as a rehearsal space. That every character yearns for a roll in the hay there is half the fun. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 6/27/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.