HOUSTON VOICE www.houston voice.com
AUGUST 2, 2002 15
theater rich arenschieldt
Rob Nash's "Romeo and Juliet' showcases the
actor's genius, but has some room for improvement
Funny by half
NO, THIS ISN'T A REVIEW OF OUR
annual outdoor theatrical sweat-a-thon,
The Houston Shakespeare Festival, but
rather, commentary about an entirely different kind of animal — comedic
actor/writer Rob Nash.
Fortunately the same impresario/rocket
scientist that planned the Miller Outdoor
Theater series that takes place each August
is nowhere near Nash's current offering,
"Romeo and Juliet: Sex &Love at Holy Cross
High," now showing at Theatre New West
on Missouri Street. This show is presented
in air-conditioned comfort, not in the terrar-
ium known as Miller Outdoor Theater.
Outdoor theater in Houston does seem a
bit odd — cultural mavens in our city seem
to have made three egregious assumptions.
First, that Houstonians actually want to see
Shakespeare, a dubious assumption under
the best climactic circumstances. Second,
that the most famous of the Bard's lines isn't
"Wherefore art thou Romeo?" but rather,
"Julio, where's the hell's the mosquito repellent?" And third, that two plays within a
week's times constitutes a "festival."
Fortunately, the "other" "Romeo and
Juliet" provides a cooler and much less
Since he is a frequent performer in
Houston, Nash's quirky brand of comedy
has acquired a definite following of Texas
devotees. He has appeared under the auspices of just about every theatrical group in
the city and audiences have come to regard
him as the kind of actor you might invite to
one of your parties to liven things up a bit.
Many know him as the result of his
"Dysfunctional Family" saga which
includes the now decade old "12 Steps To a
More Dysfunctional You" and "12 Steps To
a More Dysfunctional Family" The most
telling part of the trilogy, "12 Steps to a
More Dysfunctional Christmas," packs a
humorous holiday punch. These works and
a series of one-man comedies detailing adolescence through rosary-colored parochial
school glasses have established Nash as an
extremely talented writer/actor. Through
these various pieces, Nash has found a formula that works well as a means to offer his
highly original material.
His "Romeo and Juliet" differs from
this formula, especially since it relies
heavily on one of the most famous pieces
of English drama ever created. In this
case, the choice is a good one. While audiences may not be familiar with every
poetic line of the work, most know the
sequence of events, if only from the
Broadway musical equivalent, "West Side
Story" Boy meets girl, boy wants girl,
girl's family forbids it, boy and girl
arrange to secretly marry, then boy and
girl die as the result of some inept monk
who thinks he's a pharmacist.
In Nash's work, bits of The Bard are
interspersed with bits of drama surrounding
the production of the production. Nash not
only plays all of
also all of the
high school characters portraying
This cast of
dozens necessitates quick movement and mental Rob Nash popu|ar comedjc
action from Nash. actor and wnter bHngs to
He easily manages |jfe his own versjon of *Romeo
staccato style and Ju|iet- now p|aying at
transformations Theatre New West,
of gender, accent,
demeanor, age, and sexuality
A one-man recitation of the Shakespeare
text alone would be daunting; to couple that
with an additional cast of separate characters seems a bit impossible, but is entirely
within the range of Nash's capabilities.
The difficulty in this production isn't
in presenting the two sides of the coin,
but in articulating how they relate to each
other comedically. The Holy Cross High
characters are, in typical Nash style, a
hilarious high-school microcosm. Not only
does the playwright create these individuals, but he then uses his unique acting
abilities to bring them to life onstage.
The potential for humor is endless as these
socially flawed teenagers attempt to portray
serious Shakespearean roles. As expected,
under the magnifying glass of tragedy, the
personality disorders of the Holy Cross High
School drama group are intensified, a convention wisely utilized by Nash. However, there
are many more opportunities in this work for
humor than the writer takes advantage of
This is especially true in that most high
school kids are oblivious to the true depth of
the woiid's most profoundly romantic tragedy
While this version of "Romeo and Juliet"
has some .amusing moments, this writer/actor
has in a way shortchanged himself by giving
us characters that are not as fully developed as
audiences might expect A fair amount of the
original "Romeo and Juliet" text is included in
this work and Nash's portrayal of his "south
of the border" Juliet is really worth seeing.
That said, I was hoping for more
"backstage" interaction from this wacky
"cast" of one. Audiences are familiar with
the work upon which this show is based.
What we'd like to see more of are the
characters that the talented Nash brings
to life and how they relate to each other.
"Romeo and Juliet" a la Nash is a work
that has a few holes. Its inventive creator
can aptly fill them with humor.
fl) 'Romeo & Juliet: Sex &
Love at Holy Cross High'
8 p.m. Through Aug. 17, Thurs, Fri & Saturday
Tickets: $18-20 • Theatre New West
1415 California St. • 713-394-0464
ON SALE THIS SATURDAY AT 10AM!
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