Racy ‘Romeo’ revisited
"Romeo and Juliet" in a strip club. Yes, it's been done -- twice, in fact. But with "Femme Capulet: Romeo and Juliet Remixed," indefatigable adapter/director Troy M. Apostol succeeds once again in approaching one of Shakespeare's most popular tragedies from a fresh and imaginative perspective.
'Femme Capulet: Romeo and Juliet Remixed'
Presented by the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival:
On stage: 8 p.m. today through Sunday
Place: The ARTS @ Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.
Tickets: $14; $10 students
Call: 550-8457 or visit HonoluluBoxOffice.com
And with Tony Pisculli of the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival as co-director of this third and final version of "Femme Capulet," any fears that the show is more about G-rated lap dances than Shakespeare can be laid to rest.
Much of the action does takes place in the "infamous" Femme Capulet club, but the language is all Shakespeare, and most of the cast does justice to the material.
Kevin DeBell (Romeo) and Jessica Ciufo (Juliet) capture the tenderness and impetuous passion of the young lovers in touching and convincing style. Nicole Brilhante (Lady Capulet), JEDI (Tybalt), Ryan Sutherlan (Friar Lawrence) and Elizabeth Wolfe (Mercutio) are commanding figures in major supporting roles.
"Remix" is an "extreme edit" of the work, which cuts the running time by eliminating some scenes while others are staged several times. The intent is to show pivotal moments from different perspectives. Did Romeo kill Tybalt in cold blood, or was it a fair fight? Was it Romeo or Juliet who took the initiative in hooking up? Had Romeo stopped by Femme Capulet to see a dancer named Rosaline when Juliet caught his eye, or was he just a young playa out on the town, looking for whatever might come his way?
The "alternative perspectives" idea is interesting, but would have worked better if the identities of the various narrators had been clearly indicated -- in the program notes, if not in the performance.
The other significant change this time is that Juliet is not a new young stripper but a virginal 14-year-old who occasionally joins the dancers on stage. This is not as shocking as it sounds, because Femme Capulet is one of those fantasy places like the club in "Flashdance," where men are content to shell out big bucks to watch women dance without actually removing any clothes.
The absence of nudity notwithstanding, the new "Remix" is more erotic than its predecessors. Ryan Sutherlan (Friar Lawrence), wearing heavy black eyeliner, puts a sexually charged spin on the Friar's ruminations on flowers in one scene, and appears ready to take Juliet sexually for himself in another. Elizabeth Wolfe (Mercutio) and Michelle Raboteau (Rosaline) turn Mercutio's lengthy discussion of dreams into the erotic epicenter of the production as Mercutio ponders the subject while engaging in an encounter with a dancer -- and almost strangles her while doing so.
Wolfe excels in what is traditionally a male role. She plays Mercutio as a woman Romeo should not have overlooked.
Raboteau is a seductive comic presence opposite Sutherlan in the "flowers" scene, and she radiates sensuality in the "dreams" scene.
Pisculli's Po'okela Award-winning ability as a fight choreographer adds to the dramatic impact of the duels and related violence, and JEDI gets the credit for the music programming and original mixes that establish the milieu and give the Les Femmes Capulet dancers something to groove to.