These Paper Bullets, a “modish ripoff of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing,” is on stage now at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. It’s delightful. Plain and simple. There are plenty of reasons to gather your pals and get yourself in a seat. And I’ll share those… but I have one gripe, which branches off to others, but really… just one gripe. It’s toooo long. Where’s a person with a red pen when you need one? In hopes to model the solution, I will continue with a concise and succinct review.
Rollin Jones. Playwright. The guy is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. A television writer of many shows you know and love. He’s talented. Mr. Jones has done successfully what so many attempt and fail on varying levels; he’s adapted Shakespeare in a fully appropriate and entertaining way. This “Much Ado” takes place in 1960’s London overflowing with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in the form of a Beatles like fab four called The Quartos. And it works! Really.
Billie Joe Armstrong. He wrote the songs. He’s the front man for Green Day and has previous theatre success with the musical, American Idiot. These Paper Bullets isn’t a musical… it’s a play with music. Really stinkin’ good music sang by those Quartos dudes. Yes, these guys (James Barry, Damon Daunno, Justin Kirk, Lucas Papaelias) aren’t just great actors, they can play instruments and sing, too. Life isn’t fair.
Actors. This show has quite the ensemble. I’m skipping the whole plot synopsis, assuming you are familiar with the (overdone, frankly) Much Ado About Nothing scenario. Nicole Parker plays Bea (Beatrice) the fashion designer. Justin Kirk (yes, you know him… I fell in love with his talent in Angels in America) plays Ben (Benedict) one of the Quartos. But trust me–they are all good.
The story. Although I will boldly state that “Much Ado” is completely overdone these days… there’s a reason for it. It’s cute and funny. Those scared of Shakespeare tend to believe that they can handle that one. And they can. It’s cute and funny, after all. And this version is too. It’s fluff, don’t get me wrong. Lots of boy loves girl, a misunderstanding (with the help of a bad guy), and then boy loves girl again. Plenty of shenanigans. But it’s entertaining and it always has been.
Do I need to know the story “Much Ado” in order to enjoy Paper Bullets? No, but it might add to the fun if you do.
Could this show be a gateway to appreciating Shakespeare? Yes! Maybe just “Much Ado”… but you’ll probably find it more accessible after seeing this.
Are the 60’s costumes phenomenal? YES with 5 exclamation marks. YAY Jessica Ford. You could justify going for this reason alone.
Does this show actually live up to its potential with a good cast, playwright, story, music guy..and director (Jackson Gay, I haven’t given him props, yet)? Yes! Sometimes it actually happens. It’s a winning combo that winds up being successful.
So, I couldn’t do it either…write a short and sweet review. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. But this show should be cut. When adapting even the great Shakespeare, you can and should get rid of some of the excess. He was a wordy dude and threw in plenty of excessive characters and had lots of side stories. No need to keep them all.
Now go have fun.
10886 Le Conte Ave, Los Angeles
8pm Tues.-Fri., 3 and 8pm Sat., 2 and 7pm Sun.
Thru Oct 18th.
tickets vary, and as usual, tix avail on the usual discount sites