Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Romeo and Juliet Are Alive and Well and Living in Maple Bend

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No, you're not cinder-hearted if you hate children's theater. You probably just don't enjoy being condescended to by perky 24-year-olds. But if you're still open to the remote possibility that children's theater might speak to you, or if you'd like to expose your children to live performance that doesn't insult and belittle them, check out the Griffin Theatre Company's Romeo and Juliet Are Alive and Well and Living in Maple Bend. Playwright William Massolia and director Richard Barletta originally presented this endearing lampoon of first love in Griffin's funky Andersonville theater last October, and now Arlington Heights' commercial behemoth, the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, has invited this scrappy little cast out for a reprise. The play tells the story of Jimmy, the biggest nerd any middle school has ever seen, who's gone head over heels for plucky classmate Abigail. When Jimmy's conniving friend Marko arranges for the two would-be paramours to star in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, the humiliating, awkward, and thoroughly entertaining fumbling of lovesick 14-year-olds kicks into high gear. This is a big, silly show with cartoonish characters and a slapstick pace, but Barletta's whip-smart cast maintains a gentleness and vulnerability throughout the mayhem. The result is a moving romp through that brief moment in time when love is so pure and stupid it hurts. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 Campbell, Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121. Opens Saturday, August 5, 11 AM. Through August 13: Saturdays-Sundays, 11 AM. $8. --Justin Hayford

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