Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Theater Review: These Paper Bullets -- Yale Rep

Beatles, Bard and Billy Joe Make for a Mod Mix Musical
By Lauren Yarger
Who says Shakespeare is boring?

Take one of his classic comedies, throw in a Fab Four group sort of like the Beatles and let Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong (American Idiot) write the music and presto: you have a modern, interesting show called These Paper Bullets.

The subtitle is right: “A Modish Ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.” With a book by Rolin Jones (“Friday Night Lights,” “Weeds”) set in 1964 London, it follows the romantic and revenge-filled antics of the pop band Quartos: Ben (David Wilson Barnes), Claude (Bryan Fenkart), Balth (Lucas Papaelias), and Pedro (James Barry) – and Don Best (Adam O’Byrne), the drummer Pedro replaced.
They are worshipped by their fans and feared by Scotland Yard.

“What’s wrong with the youth of England?”

Can they  find true love – Ben with verbal sparring partner Bea (a very engaging Jeanine Serralles) and Claude with model Higgy (Ariana Venturi)? BBC reporter Paulina Noble (Liz Wisan) is sure to keep you up to date (thanks to video projections designed by Nicholas Hussong).

The Quartos: Bryan Fenkart as Claude, Lucas Papaelias as Balth, James Barry as Pedro (on drums), and David Wilson Barnes as Ben in These Paper Bullets! Photo © Joan Marcus, 2014.
The band plays Armstrong tunes (orchestrated and arranged by Tom Kitt of Next to Normal fame) under the musical direction of Julie McBride. Jackson Gay, who staged Jones’s Pulitzer-Prize finalist The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow at Yale Rep in 2004 directs the antics on Michael Yeargan’s multi-tasking set. Costume Designer Jessica Ford has fun putting the characters in 1960s outfits.

It’s a fun show with lots of laughs throughout. Commissioned by Yale Repertory Theatre, it’s a perfect offering for its WILL POWER! Series which includes three morning performances for  high school student groups. Most exciting to me was that if you didn’t know the basis plot was Much Ado, you wouldn’t know you were watching Shakespeare. The adaptation takes on its own persona and except for a few times when lines suddenly sound Shakespeare-like, those enjoying the tunes and story might have no idea old Will had anything to do with the production.

Warning: the show contains strong language and adult content. Showtimes vary through April 5. Tickets $20-$98: (203) 432-1234; www.yalerep.org. These Paper Bullets plays at the University Theatre, 222 York St., New Haven.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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