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'Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story' at New York Fringe Festival - Review

'Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story' at New York Fringe Festival - Review

Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art the queers in Shakespeare’s greatest love story? You will find out just why they are ever present in Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story, during New York International Fringe Festival. Ampersand is a queer rock-musical comedy that takes a Sapphic spin to the original Shakespearian drama and shakes up the formula with modern day twists.

Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art the queers in Shakespeare’s greatest love story? At the 15th Annual New York International Fringe Festival, you will find out just why they are ever present in Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story, which is currently running through Saturday, August 27th.  Written by Mariah MacCarthy, Ampersand, is a queer rock-musical comedy that takes a Sapphic spin to the original Shakespearian drama and shakes up the formula with modern day twists.

Though the basic premise and names of the characters throughout the play are true to the original that’s pretty much where the comparison to Shakespeare’s masterpiece ends. Romeo Montague (played by Lauren Hennessy) is a brash “dyke” rocker who is very rough around the edges. Romeo’s mother is running for re-election as mayor of the small town of Verona, Iowa.  Juliet Capulet (played by Brigitte Choura) is a rich beauty queen whose mother is  also running for mayor. Let the politically charged family discord begin! The pair meets and falls in love--whilst disguised of course --at a masquerade party and soon after a night of drunken partying, they reveal their true identity to each other. The star-crossed lovers decide to keep their love on the down low -- as the Verona paparazzi would love to get a picture of these two -- until after the election.

coming out

Shakespeare probably never envisioned his Juliet asking her cousin Tybalt for an 8 ball of coke, nor Romeo telling Juliet how badly she wants to go down on her, butAmpersand dares to do just that.  The dialogue of the play can best be described as having an Aaron Sorkin-ian/West Wing quality to it in that the beat is bouncy and the character’s responses are quick. The performers toss witty retorts to one another and relatable quips that make you not only want to know more about them but actually hang out with them. The placement of modern day norms within the script such as, YouTube, paparazzi and Bud Light induced brawls, amplifies the comedic scope of the play because, after all, this is story is so familiar, and to see it played out in the present with lesbian characters for leads is thoroughly entertaining.

One would be certifiably remiss not to note that the chemistry between Romeo and Juliet is palpable. These two lovebirds cannot keep their hands off each other throughout most of the play (There is a lot of making out.) The arc of their relationship certainly touches on that of a co-dependent lesbian relationship gone super-duper unhealthy, but despite that it’s natural to really pull for these two women to be together and to come out of the g-damn closet already. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to remember how Shakespeare ended his play, so concern for their future abounds. The question remains, how would two star-crossed lesbians in love handle the pressures of their families at odds and murder? Well, for that answer you will just have to see it for yourself.

You can catch Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Love Story at The 15th Annual New York International Fringe Festival (8/18 at 2:00 pm, 8/20 at 12:00 pm or 8/27 at 7:45 pm) by purchasing tickets here.

coming out

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Reese Breen