When you think of clowns, you probably don’t think of Romeo And Juliet, and when you think of Romeo And Juliet, you probably don’t imagine Juliet telling her beloved, “You are the sun in the sky. I can’t wait for you to be that guy … who fucks me tonight.”

No, you probably don’t imagine R & J having wheelbarrow sex on their honeymoon night, or the Friar reassuring Juliet that after she takes the “poison” he’s given her, “Your body will be cold but your vagina will be piping hot,” or the above characters’ faces painted white, red, and blue—that is, unless you’ve seen Four Clowns: Romeo & Juliet, the latest creation of the quartet of Pierrots who call themselves (what else?) Four Clowns, and who’ve taken the Fringe world by storm.

The conception of Jeremy Aluma (who must have one of the most fiendishly warped senses of humor in the entertainment world), Four Clowns have unleashed their take on Shakespeare’s most famous couple, and a wilder, crazier (and as you’ve probably already figured out), raunchier ninety minutes of fun and frolic you’re unlikely ever to have had—unless you’ve seen one of their previous shows.

Quirky Alexis Jones is Scooter, aka Angry Clown. Buff Kevin Klein is Biff, aka Sad Clown. Cute Raymond Lee is Hamper, aka Mischievous Clown. Frizzy-locked Zach Steel is Clementine, aka Nervous Clown. According to press materials, Four Clowns: Romeo And Juliet “explores themes of youth, love, lust and vengeance,” though perhaps not quite so allegorically as they did when they went (to quote LA Theatre Review about the original Four Clown show) “though the stages of life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and death.” Here, they simply bring to life the major players of Shakespeare’s most romantic tragedy, including look-unalikes Klein and Steel as a pair of dueling Nurses.

With script by William Shakespeare (yes, indeed the Bard does get writing credit along with a septet of adapters) and direction by Aluma, Four Clowns: Romeo And Juliet sticks quite closely to the story we know so well, with some adjustments.

To begin with, all four performers do indeed wear clown makeup (including big red stick-on noses) from start to finish. Their basic attire (wifebeaters, shorts, and leggings) gets added onto in a variety of ways to create the many characters they play, along with various voices and accents and a certain amount of gender-bending.

The balcony scene is there, of course, but now Romeo wonders from atop a ladder, “Is that Juliet or is that a desk lamp?” When Juliet asks him, “How did you get here,” Romeo replies “Love,” upon which he begins warbling a chorus of “Love Lifts Me Up Where I Belong.” When the Friar concocts a magic potion for Juliet, he’s accompanied by stage-right piano whiz Mario Granville tickling the ivories to “Theme From Mission Impossible.” When Juliet emerges from her “death” coma, Romeo wonders aloud if she’s a zombie or a ghost.

If you haven’t already guessed, Four Clowns shows are not for children. The Nino Rota “Love Theme From Romeo And Juliet” features new lyrics about Juliet’s panties. Juliet dreams of a honeymoon night when she and Romeo can do “all those wonderful things I’ve seen on that Internet porn.” Following that wheelbarrow sex (simulated, in case you were wondering), Romeo asks Juliet “Can we fuck like normal folk now?” upon which he butt-fucks her with his foot—in pantomime, that is. There’s a good deal of scatological humor thrown in too, in addition to some G-rated jokes that are just plain funny in a wacky sort of way, as when Lady Capulet informs us that “Juliet’s bedroom walls are made of Brazil nuts,” or when Romeo is joined by the three other clowns in a competition to see who can be sadder than Romeo himself is, pining for his Rosaline.

Even the audience gets to pipe up from time to time. One member is invited to play a role from his seat, reading lines like, “I am the Prince and my dick hangs to the left,” and the entire crowd is invited to shout out, “Come to the Capulet party! Come to the Capulet party!!”

All four performers have mastered the art of clowning, as well as being whizzes at switching from character to character, ad-libbing, and being as out-and-out outrageous as four clowns can be. Like Blue Man Group, we never see their real faces, and like Blue Man Group, they may well be on their way to worldwide success, or at least nationwide fringe fame. (July, August, and September will take them to festivals in Phoenix, Minnesota, and San Francisco.)

Design credit is shared by Yelena Babinskaya (lighting), Cat Elrod (costumes), Billie Escalante (make-up), Jeff Eisenman, Fred Kinney, and Stacy Walter (set), and Adam Smith (sound), with Elrod and Escalante getting the biggest snaps, for obvious reasons. Geronimo Guzman is technical director and Jazmine Green seamstress. Sharing adaptation credit are Aluma, Jones, Klein, Lee, Amir Levi, Quincy Newton, and Steel.

I’m not sure if Four Clowns: Romeo And Juliet qualifies as “great theater” in the traditional sense. It is, however, wild, raunchy, and about as original as they come—and if you don’t laugh (out loud and often), then you’re a Grumpy Clown indeed.

ArtWorks Theater, 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.
–Steven Stanley
June 18, 2011
Photos:  Rich Clark

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