These Paper Bullets
by Bob & Karen Isaacs
The Yale Rep has found the perfect recipe for a delicious evening at the theater in their production of These Paper Bullets running through April 5.
Take one part Shakespeare, in this case the comedy Much Ado About Nothing. In the play, Beatrice and Benedict verbally disparage each other which hides their real affections. You also have Hero and Claudio. They too are smitten but their love will be put to the test by the manipulations of the jealous Don John. Added in to the mix are Dogberry, the inept constable, and his crew who help reveal the manipulations and put all to right, so the play ends, as so many Shakespeare comedies do, with two weddings.
Stir in some pseudo-Shakespeare as the lines are updated and changed to reflect the change in plot. Here Rolin Jones does an excellent job at adapting the text.
Sprinkle in some 1960's British pop music -- written by Billie Joe Armstrong, of Green Day
Then decorate it with a Carnaby Street vibe.
The result is a tasty romp.
In These Paper Bullets which is subtitled A Modish Rip-off of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Benedict and Claudio are two members of the Quattros, a boy band that has taken England and the world by storm. (Just think of the Beatles). Beatrice has been transformed into Bea, a mod fashion designer, resembling Mary Quant. Hero is now Higgy, a fashion model. The evil Don John has been transformed into Don Best, the original drummer for the band who was replaced by his brother! And the bumbling Dogberry is now Mr. Berry, a high ranking official in Scotland Yard.
While Shakespeare purists may cringe, the rest of us will have terrific time. The original music carries overtones and references to Beatles' hits but can stand on their own. Among the tuneful songs that you will want to hear again are "Baby Blue," "It Keeps Me Satisfied," and "Regretfully Yours."
The four Quattros: David Wilson Barnes as Ben, Bryan Fenkart as Claude, James Barry as Pedro and Lucas Papaelias as Balth are all talented musicians. They aren't faking either the playing or the singing. In addition they are fine actors. David Wilson Barnes captures Ben's "above-it-all" attitude and Bryan Fenkart shows us Claude's gentle, naive persona.
Jeanine Serralles as Bea is an extremely talented physical comedienne whose limbs can strike any pose and whose face can be manipulated into thousands of expressions. The scene where she hides as her friends talk of Ben's love of her is a marvel and hilarious.
Ariana Venturi as Higgy seems appropriately naive, stoned and bewildered. A special nod must be given Keira Naughton who plays one of the other models, Ulcie, who is addicted to drugs, alcohol and men, though not necessarily in that order.
I could mention all of the supporting cast from Adam O'Byrne who plays the evil Don Best to Higgy's father (Stephen DeRosa), the tabloid journalist Boris (Andrew Musselman) and Colin, the paparazzo played by Brian McManamon.
The supporting cast plays a wide variety of roles: from Scotland Yard agents, to hotel staff, hangers-ons, a BBC reporter and even Dionne Warwick and the Queen. I never did figure out why Warwick makes an appearance but it is fun.
This big production is directed by Jackson Gay who keeps the pace moving quickly and shifts locales easily. All members of the production team deserve credit, but I must single out costume designer Jessica Ford and scenic designer Michael Yeargan. The costumes totally capture the late '60s styles.
I only hope These Paper Bullets has a life well beyond the stages at Yale. It deserves to be seen by a wider audience. But in the meantime, don't miss it!
These Paper Bullets is at the University Theater, 222 York St. through April 9. For tickets and information contact the box office at 203-432-1234.
This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers April 4, 2014 and online at Zip06.com.