Rick Cekovsky, Emily Shooloin, andDjola Banner (rear) in Fools in Love
(© Carol Rosegg)
Rick Cekovsky, Emily Shooloin, and
Djola Banner (rear) in Fools in Love
(© Carol Rosegg)
To be produced or not to be produced? Someone really should have asked that question before Moonwork's Fools and Lovers was brought to the stage. This one-act musical is to William Shakespeare as Mamma Mia! is to ABBA -- except that the music in Mamma Mia! is fun, at least. In this case, adapters Gregory Sherman and Gregory Wolfe (who also directed the production) and composer Andrew Sherman have strung together some of the Bard's most famous lines and forced them into an overbearing, rather stupid musical comedy about the wedding of a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.

The action of the show starts just moments before the blushing groom (Rick Cekovsky) and the slightly crazy bride (Emily Shoolin) are to be married. Their parents could not be more pleased; in fact, Romeo's mother (Lynn Lobban) eventually does her best to seduce Juliet's father (David Pixley). Also on hand are a best man, a couple of bridesmaids, a preacher, a photographer, and a caterer, all of whom end up quoting speeches from Shakespeare plays. Many of the borrowings are from A Midsummer Night's Dream and Much Ado About Nothing, but you'll also hear lines from a slew of other works tossed hither and yon.

Fools and Lovers may make some audience members feel self-satisfied if they can name the plays that the lines are taken from and the characters who said them; but that's a parlor game, not a theater piece. To give the show its due, there are a few gags that work, garnering a laugh here and there. Moreover, the modern-day setting offers easy accessibility to the Bard's work -- not that there is anything difficult to follow in this simpleton's story.

The credible set design is by Kanae Heike, who has created a fine replica of a wedding hall. Unfortunately, the cast is wildly uneven in terms of singing and acting abilities. Lobban sings a number with commitment and vocal excellence, but she is certainly the exception to the rule in this show. As for the songs, themselves, they're entirely unmemorable, and they aren't even listed in the program.

This is no Shakespeare's R & J, which was as witty and tightly wrapped as this show is witless and flabby. Please understand: We're not Shakespeare snobs offended by such a mix-and-match approach to the Bard. As far as we're concerned, playwrights can have all the fun they want at old Will's expense. Just do a good job of it!