R+J

Romeo (Charlie Aleman) embraces Juliet (Briana Sakamoto) in R+J, Hypokrit Theatre Company’s female/genderqueer adaptation of the Bard’s famous tragedy. Original photo by Hunter Canning.

By Andrew Andrews

Reading the synopsis, you might think, “This is going to be weird. Maybe even a little fucked-up.”

I mean, a dystopian future where all cisgender men have been eliminated and the government is still relying on martial law for order amongst the factions? Sounds rough.

And then you see the set, covered in metal, plastered with posters about the resistance, covered with graffiti relating to the struggle, and you might think back two decades to the Baz Luhrmann adaptation, and say, “This is definitely going to be hardcore.”

Then the lights go out, and a barely-legible announcement blares from the loudspeakers, and you wonder if you’ll ever think of Shakespeare’s most famous tale—the most famous love story of all time—the same way again.

And then the actors appear.

And they recite the verse.

And it all feels familiar.

Very, very familiar.

And you realize that, even in a dystopian future, there will still be love amidst the hate.

There will still be poetry and rhyme.

There will still be those with respect for the classics.

There will still be those who love Shakespeare.

And, although the pronouns may change, even the names will remain the same.

This is R+J, the latest offering from Hypokrit Theatre Company, a female/genderqueer interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, adapted and directed by Molly Houlahan, featuring Jillian Geurts, Chelsea Fryer, Ania Upstill, and Tsebiyah Mishael, with Charlie Aleman as Romeo and Briana Sakamoto as Juliet.

Given that the cast and crew (including the aforementioned set by Marisa Kaugars, lighting by Dallas Estes, costumes from Lux Haac and sound by Renee Yeong) are 100% women or gender non-conforming, 62% queer and 50% people of color, it’s obviously not your run-of-the-mill production of Shakespeare.

Yet it’s not that different, either.

Yes, the masculime words have been all but eliminated, and used only for dramatic effect. But aside from that, this is Romeo and Juliet by the book, which means even those that identify with the gender binary can enjoy it.

Assuming, of course, that you’re willing and able to recognize that gender is a lot less binary for others than it may be for you.

So check out R+J at Access Theater, then come back here and tell us your take on their take on this timeless tragedy.

Whether you love the reinterpretation or insist that the classics should stand on their own, your ratings help others decide whether Hypokrit’s production is worth their attention, and your ratings help us help you find future performances you’re sure to love!

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Andrew Andrews attended R+J at Access Theater in New York on Friday, September 28, 2018 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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