Shakespeare performed in modern dress is nothing new, but Rolin Jones ups the ante considerably with his antic pop confection These Paper Bullets! This version of Much Ado About Nothing features toe-tapping, carbonated songs by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong that convincingly channel the early Beatles, from super-sweet lyrics to hummable harmonies. The dialogue is a conflation of Sixties lingo and faux Elizabethan, generously sprinkled with nods to both Beatles and Bard.
It takes a minute to adjust to the funny, frequently raunchy banter. But the visual sync is instantaneous: The candy-colored miniskirts, Twiggy haircuts, and Mary Quant–style flower logos are spot on, vividly evoking the Fab Four’s youthquake era. The band, complete with trademark bowl cuts, is all here (cleverly called the Quartos — shades of Shakespeare), performing with contagious brio. Occasional audience participation, including characters racing through the aisles and black-and-white video projections of unwitting theatergoers in simulated BBC news footage, adds to the general hilarity.
The double — and double-crossed — romance of Much Ado becomes the story of Claude (the Quartos’ Paul) and Higgy, the Twiggy-like It-girl and model for Bea, the mod designer of the moment. Then there’s the villainous former Quarto Don Best, who conspires, pre-Photoshop, to doctor a pic of Higgy’s gal pal Ulcie shagging a burly tabloid writer in order to manufacture evidence that Higgy has betrayed her betrothed. But all’s well that ends well, right down to double vows and a rousing rock number. Great fun.
These Paper Bullets!
By Rolin Jones
Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th Street