Revised Version of Steamy Shakespeare's R&J Will Get U.S. Premiere at VA Signature; Cast Announced

By Kenneth Jones
15 Jan 2013

Jefferson Farber and Alex Mills
Jefferson Farber and Alex Mills
Photo by Christopher Mueller

Joe Calarco's popular all-male Shakespeare's R&J, refracting Romeo and Juliet through the story of four boys at a boarding school where the classic is banned, has been revised by writer-director Calarco and is in rehearsal for an in-the-round production by Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.

Performances will play Signature's MAX Theatre Feb. 5-March 3. It's the company's first in-the-round production. This marks the North American premiere of Calarco's revision of his Off-Broadway and regional hit.

The cast includes Rex Daugherty, Jefferson Farber, Alex Mills and Joel David Santner.

"This Signature production of R&J will be the first time this version of the script will be seen in the U.S.," Calarco told Playbill.com. "I made some changes each time I'd done it and I made a major revision when I directed the U.K./West End production in 2003. That script is published in the U.K. but not in the U.S. The script published here is the script done in the original New York City premiere. And even now in the first week of rehearsals I've done a few revisions already, as well. It's been over eight years since I've directed a production of the play so it's been exciting discovering it again."



The production team includes scenic designer James Kronzer, lighting designer Chris Lee and costume designer Kathleen Geldard.

According to Signature, where Calarco is an artistic associate, "[The] modern-day drama melds the timeless power of Romeo and Juliet with an imaginative new coming-of-age tale. When a repressive all-male Catholic boarding school bans Romeo and Juliet in favor of Latin conjugations and the Ten Commandments, four students unearth a secret copy of the script and steal into the night to recite the prohibited tale of adolescent passion. What begins as a lark gradually yields surprising discoveries about greed, love and adulthood."

Two stories unfold at once. "For much of the show you're hearing the text of Romeo and Juliet, but you're also watching these four young men change because of this play and its power to transform your world," Calarco said in Signature notes. "It's really an ode to the teaching power of theatre."

For Signature, Calarco wrote and directed Walter Cronkite is Dead and directed Assassins (Helen Hayes Award), Urinetown (Helen Hayes Award), Side Show (Helen Hayes Award), Nijinsky's Last Dance (Helen Hayes Award), Nest and The Boy Detective Fails. Off-Broadway, he directed The Burnt Part Boys, Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky, In Transit (Drama Desk Award nomination) and Boy. He is associate artistic director of Breaking Bread Theatre (visit breakingbreadtheatre.com) and often blogs about his creative process (joecalarco.blogspot.com).

For more about the Virginia run, visit signature-theatre.org.