No need to be familiar with this classic story of star-crossed lovers as you enter the theatre. The tale is told frequently and briefly numerous times as the audience is seated, with Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio and Tybalt, and the others pantomiming the incidents as they're narrated by cast members alternately in Spanish and English. The recitations vary in speed, coloring, and humor, as does the original Shakespearean play. But this is not the Bard's linear work; it could be subtitled "Riffs and Variations on a Theme by Shakespeare."
Action is duplicated and repeated, like the tale being told in a house of mirrors, structured like a Vivaldi concerto in an echo chamber. Bits and snatches multiply and reverberate, and, although certain actors predominantly play the main characters, others often assume their identities.
It is an exciting, individualistic approach, not the usual "directorial concept" but a performance piece built around snatches of the play, a sort of shattered and scattered memory of the action, but solid and insightful in its form. Director Tanya Kane-Parry has restructured Romeo and Juliet in the manner of a Cubist painting, with glimmering flashes of action and dialogue, with a bit of Dadaism thrown in. Her tempos and rhythms are impeccable, and even the inclusion of a few moments of Latin music, with pantomimed marimba player, and wildly romantic couples dancing, fit in. The piece is full of insightful action and is fascinating from beginning to end.
Notable are the central actors. Jeremy Ronceros' Romeo and McKenna King's Gertrude stand out, along with José Ramos in several identities. But the whole company knows how to illuminate Kane-Parry's design and acts as a body, one performance built of numerous images by a cast that submerges itself into an idea. When, at the end, there are five Romeos collapsing dead across the bodies of five Juliets, it is evident that Shakespeare himself would find the evening enchanting and true to his intent.
"Romeo and (y) Juliet(a)," presented by Quantum Theatre Company at the NoHo Actors Studio, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. May 30-June 29. $10-15. (323) 465-5415.