What would happen if, when Romeo returned to Verona to be with Juliet, she wasn’t dead? What if she was sleeping with another man, instead?
That is the premise for How To Stab A Curtain, a two-act comedy that parodies the works of Shakespeare, coming from the founders of Threatless Theatre. The play hit the quaint Abrams Studio from June 16-18, for four sold out shows.
How To Stab A Curtain was the result of 19-year-old theatre production student Nicholas Paddison’s hope that there could be a way for students to understand, respect, and even come to like the works of Shakespeare.
Written and directed by Paddison, and 20-year-old Umed Abdullah, a theatre student at the University of Windsor, the play follows Romeo Montague as he looks for a way to still go down in history now that he’s lost the option of dying beside Juliet Capulet. He finds himself on a journey to Denmark to murder the king so he may claim the throne, and eternal fame, joined by a set of characters from various other Shakespeare plays (Macbeth, Prospero, and Hamlet, to name a few).
The set itself was minimally decorated — just a bench, which doubled as a bed if the scene called for one — but was enhanced by the projection on the back wall, which the crew used to draw the “scenery” (the church in which Romeo and Juliet died, the kingdom of Denmark, the high seas). Discreet was the theme, and it worked wonderfully to accent the talent of the performers.
Despite a small stage and an even smaller set of actors (who all took on approximately three roles a piece), How To Stab A Curtain had a big, boisterous voice. Infused with both classic Shakespearian monologues (all the memorable ones, of course) and a touch of the modern (what’s a gun doing in this scene?), it was as intellectually valuable as it was a roaring good time.
The heart of the laughs came from the play’s shameless self-reflexive humor. Openly acknowledging themselves as actors, the cast would yell out such gems as Paddison’s “No, I don’t want a program!” when being dragged out the theatre doors, and Abdullah’s “you’re sitting on my head scarf; it helps distinguish which character I am.”
Perhaps what was most impressive about the cast was their ability to improvise on the fly. No show was ever entirely the same as the last, and their collective skill at going with the flow had not just the audience, but the crew in stitches. “We were dying [of laughter] in the booth,” shared Bree Lawrence, the show’s Head of Props.
Stand-out performances were Paddison in his dual role as the narcissistic, fame-loving Romeo and the eclectic Prospero the Illusionist, and Abdullah as Juliet’s sassy nanny and the permanently sulky Hamlet. However, Kurtis Whittle and Caleigh Barker stole the show in their renditions of Peter, the illiterate church boy, and the sexually insatiable Gertrude, respectively.
(This article was taken from The Ryerson Free Press‘s July 2011 issue.)