By Mary Boyle
Sometimes it's fun to make fun of a tragedy. Well, as long as the tragedy is 400 years old, anyway. Milwaukee's Patrick Schmitz knows a thing or two about comedies, having worked as an improv teacher at both First Stage and Comedy Sportz, as well as performing comedy throughout the state, and turning Shakespeare's tragedies into comedies is something of a passion of his. Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth have all been reworked by Schmitz, and now the most famed of the Bard's tragic plays, those star-crossed lovers from Verona, have been written into yet another of his playful parodies in The Comedy of Romeo & Juliet...Kinda Sorta.
Romeo Montague (Josh Decker) could not be more depressed: his true love has lost interest in him. His cousin, Benvolio (Haley San Fillippo), and friend, Mercutio (Joey Chelius) are determined to cheer him up by crashing the party of their family's greatest enemy, the Capulets, where Romeo promptly falls in love with the Lord and Lady's only daughter, Juliet (Karah Minelli). With help from Friar Lawrence (Rollie Cafaro) and Juliet's nurse (Beth Lewinski), the young lovers wed in secret. Unfortunately, Lord and Lady Capulet (Rich Laguna and Laura Holterman) have already decided on another husband for their daughter: the much older Paris (Erik Koconis), and Juliet's cousin, Tybalt (Chris Goode), is determined to make Romeo pay for showing up at the Capulet's party.
Of course, we all already know what becomes of our unlucky couple (they say it right in the prologue, for Heaven's sake!), but this version of the tale is far less tragic than the original. Schmitz does a good job of exploiting both the language and the customs of Elizabethan times that seem strange to our modern sensibilities and poking fun at it, and this comes through best with the character of Paris, played by a hysterically creepy Erik Koconis, whose duet with Rich Laguna's Lord Capulet might be the highlight of the show. Josh Decker's over-the-top despair makes for a very entertaining, if not pathetic, Romeo, while Karah Minelli's Juliet is about what you'd expect a 13 year old girl to be. Rollie Cafaro as Friar Lawrence and Beth Lewinski as Juliet's nurse are well-written characters and fun to watch. Puns and pop culture references abound and, overall, the production is a good way to pack a lot of laughs into one evening and still feel as though you got a little bit of culture.
The Comedy of Romeo & Juliet...Kinda Sorta runs through Saturday, August 10th at the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall, located on the west side of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts at 929 N. Water St. in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased online at https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/comedy-romeo-and-juliet-kinda-sorta or at the theater Box Office prior to the show.