THESE PAPER BULLETS
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
If you survived those silly ‘60s when the Beatles were a sensation both here and in England, you will surely recognize them at Yale Repertory Theatre as the “Quatros” in this World Premiere called, “These Paper Bullets.” The rock band and other, wildly enthusiastic characters romp and rant in this lighthearted musical described as “A modest mod rip off of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” The title, “Paper Bullets” is taken from one of the soliloquies rendered by “Ben(edick)” in the original Shakespeare play. A suitable title could have been “Or, Whatever You Will Shake a Spear At” for this is loud, bawdy, anything goes entertainment.
The cute, head-shaking, Quatro musicians sing as well as act. “Ben” (David Wilson Barnes) is a doll-faced musician who declares that he will never marry -- and yet, those soulful paper bullets he describes in the aforementioned Shakespeare play become cupid’s arrows at the sight of a vivacious fashion designer, “Bea(trice)” (Jeanine Serralles). Musician “Claude” (Brian Fenkart) is paired with the fashion model “Higgy” (Ariana Venturi) and “Don Best” (Adam O’Bryne) is a former Quarto drummer who seeks revenge for being replaced. Besides the main characters, there’s a lot of fun and farce by musicians “Pedro” (James Barry), “Balth (Lucas Papaelias), and fashion model Keira Naughton, until everything works out in the end -- and that’s really what the show is about.
The large cast which includes smartly dressed girls in A-line miniskirts and knee high go-go boots designed by Jessica Ford, rocks and rolls under the direction of Jackson Gay and choreographer Monica Bill Barnes. Rolin Jones expertly mixes Shakespeare’s famous phases with current dialog while poking satirical fun at what fools these mortals be. Best of all are the band of musicians and Billie Joe Armstrong songs that closely resemble some of the Beatles’ famous hits. Unquestionably, Armstrong’s rock and roll music stands alone and as far as we’re concerned, it’s the element that makes the show a hit.
“Paper Bullets” needs some polishing and a manicure. It seems that every idea that came to mind was snuck into the script, just to get the audience to laugh continuously. When the antics are meaningless slapstick, they become tiresome. Scenes featuring Scotland Yard, a toilet paper rumble and a dispute over an old fashioned wedding dress are thereby overdrawn. References to pubic hair and other body parts/functions may have been in vogue during Shakespeare’s time but are silly high school humor now. It’s really quite a stretch to incorporate the “My Wild Irish Rose” solo, along with audience participation -- no matter how enjoyable the song, or delightful Stephen DeRosa is in his role of “Leo,” Higgy’s dad.
If you manage to get through the Queen’s English (spoken too quickly) you may not get all the jokes or recognize the famous personalities of the ‘60s, especially, if you were born at the wrong time. And, you wouldn’t appreciate much of Jones’ very clever wordplay if you didn’t brush up on Shakespeare’s famous sayings. You also might not realize that “Higgy” not only represents the character “Hero” in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” she is also identified with the ultra thin English model called “Twiggy”-- one of the main attractions of that crazy period. And sadly, some girls became anorexic because looking like a stick was considered fashionable.
A funny thing happened during the matinee we attended. The audience was mainly composed of two segments of our society. A large group of screaming students, too young to have witnessed the Beatles perform live, sat in the balcony. A larger group of smug, smiling, senior citizens, who were once part of this short-lived upheaval in music and fashion, occupied the orchestra. The kids reacted like the previous Beatles’ fans, and the seniors enjoyed reliving this short period of youth. Having thoroughly enjoyed the show, several elders were seen walking out of the theatre nodding heads and rocking walkers in time to the music. So, enjoy this musical for its wonderful music and “Once upon a time” nostalgia.
Plays to April 5
Tickets: 203 432 1234 – YALEREP.ORG