R'n'J: The Untold Story of Shakespeare's Roz and Jules

Perhaps the end of Romeo & Juliet wasn't quite as tragic as we remembered. Perhaps not everyone involved had to suffer, not every young life had to be cut so short. Maybe in that crypt, surrounded by the weight of death, something chose the exact right moment to shock Juliet out of her lovedrunk reverie and remove the tip of a dagger from her breast. That thing probably wasn't the chime of her cousin Rosalind texting Romeo, but R'n'J: The Untold Story of Shakespeare's Roz & Jules supposes that perhaps it was, and it's up to Roz to help Juliet through what comes next – pregnancy.

R'n'J is the story of the 'what next' for Juliet after Romeo, but doesn't develop this story very far.

Thus the tone is set for a twist on one of the most famous Shakespearean plays, not unusual just for letting the story pick up at the end and give a character a chance at life, but for making the story not only viable but vibrant with the technology of the modern day. Juliet discovers the truth of the man she loved through catfishing. Secondary action is made visible by videos played on the back of the stage. Unfortunately, this technology is not always used well. There are several jarring disconnects between what should be seen and heard in the moment and when it actually happens, and none of the actors seem comfortable acting around the prerecorded versions of themselves, or even like they had any time to rehearse with it. In addition, although it may have been an artistic decision to record some of the videos in what is obviously another room of their venue, it just makes the whole thing look unprepared and last minute.

R'n'J does not have a slim cast of characters, but it does have a slim cast. Four actors manage over a dozen roles between them, breathlessly running out of the room to switch costume to bring a new one in every few minutes and ultimately abandoning the premise at the end and breaking the fourth wall. Quick change can be excellent comedy but only about half the cast succeeds in bringing enough life into each role to differentiate them from each other. In this aspect, the actors playing supporting roles certainly outshine the protagonists, with Ella McCallum in particular notable in her total, unique embodiment of each individual character.

McCallum also leads the cast in impressive subtly, where overall R'n'J struggles with the cast's tendency to overact. Hysteria and distress are used for a replacement for any full spectrum of human emotion. The one true exception is one scene where Juliet (Carmina Bernhardt) and Roz (Oma Salinger) discuss the future of Juliet's as-yet unborn children, a quiet but intense discussion on an issue that so many women contend with for some of the exact same reasons (albeit not because they're banished from Verona).

R'n'J is the story of the 'what next' for Juliet after Romeo, but doesn't develop this story very far. All that's next is childbirth, and after that, the entire rewriting becomes aimless. Did Juliet really need children? Did Roz really need to adopt her children? Was this all just a reflection on the difficulty for women to deicde whether to abort or not? These questions are unavoidable, but R'n'J provides very little in answers.

Reviews by Ali Schultz

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The Blurb

Juliet is double pregnant, Rosaline decides she does indeed want Romeo dick, but Romeo is definitely dead. Join Roz and Jules on an epic Thelma and Louise-style multimedia tragicomedy adventure in clearing their good names, healing age-old family strife and safely delivering those babies!

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