Review: The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet

In this Verona, small children dwell
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  March 4, 2009

A BIG BOUFFANT 'DO For Juliet, even the hairstyle's new! 
For young love, kiss, and star-cross, you're hard-pressed to get

The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet | by Peter Bloedel | Directed by Reba Short | Produced by The Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine, in the museum's Dress Up Theatre, in Portland | through March 8 | 207.828.1234 ext. 231

more quintessence than Romeo and Juliet

tour-de-force, oft re-spun by a gaggle of greats

(Stephen Sondheim, Tom Stoppard, Baz Luhrmann, Dire Straits).

R&J's rich in iambs and wordplay and plot,

and yet cheery for kids the original's not.

It is also (our orange-wigged Narrators yawn)

quite a marathon gig — more than two hours long!

So to lighten it up and to make the show fit

a sit-through-able span, the whole play's been rewrit

in the spirit and brevity, end-rhymes and goofs,

of one Theodore Geisel — a/k/a Doc Seuss.

Under winning direction by Ms. Reba Short

a fine gang of young thespians tweaks with the Bard.

And so this week I heap anapestic acclaim

on the super and skilled Children's Theatre of Maine.

In the shade of the bright pastel pink, blue, and green

of those iconographical Truffula trees,

are erected (respectively, stage right and left)

a gigantic green "O" and a monster pink "X."

They're the clans' gangland crests, and divide up the set

between Monotones and rival Capitulates.

To help narrate their tale, there appear — clad in blue —

our two orange-wigged riffs on Thing 1 and Thing 2

(Bridget Fehrs, Sarah Somes — a great pair!). They extol

how this version's less mean than the one the Bard told.

But the kids still rebel: Tim Hartell's dreamy swain

swears he'll win Sarah Glidden, our fair heroine.

She is promised to some other guy, a dumb lout,

but her nurse (keen Grace Dexter) will help the kids out.

Like an elf in her blonde Pippy-Longstocking-ed 'do,

grinning Glidden is mischievous, and as her dude,

young Hartell is a picture of pining, entreats

with his puppydog eyes and his shuffling feet.

As his sidekicks, two CTM kids are a kick:

Henry Jaques, as Benvolio, rides pogo-sticks

while Mercutio (Odie De Smith) wears a red

wiry mohawk, and swaggers with James Dean street cred.

DeSmith's tussles with Tybalt (Gabe Walker) cut loose

with fine swordplay, pulled off with long skinny balloons.

As Monk Larry, who gives the alchemical fix,

the blue-suited Payge Emerson eerily slinks;

and Sebastian Grimm's cool Lord Capitulate zings

with his snap disco moves, big pink 'fro, and "X" bling.

As his lady (and that of Lord Monotone, too)

Sydney Hallowell milks it, a narcissist shrew

to her servant (Alexis Ewald) and her girl,

who has had it with feuds, the messed-up grown-ups' world.

Now, if R&J still seems a curious choice

for amusing young kids via blithe Seuss-y voice,

have no fear of the mordant: This rendering lends

the whole tragic shebang an alternative end,

in which former arch-feudsters embrace and share praise

of each other's cool duds and kind character traits.

But though nobody dies, there's still strife to be met,

which might well spur some good parent-kid tête-à-têtes.

This ensemble is super; the cast as a whole

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Related: Seeing is believing, Double vision, Making some waves, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Tom Stoppard, Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel,  More more >
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