“Shakespeare is about pushing somebody to that point: How can you forgive somebody after they’ve done something really terrible? . . . It’s a very big moment, what happens. The next two, three minutes of stage time, I think the audience is going to be quite shocked.”
Tuesday to March 4, Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW, 202-547-1122,
In Faction of Fools’ “Romeo and Juliet,” opening Thursday, Eva Wilhelm plays four characters and, in an envy-inspiring twist, gets two sword fights.
“I’m almost jealous of me for having two sword fights!” she said. “As a woman, there are a lot of us who are certified in stage combat. I’m certified in seven weapons. . . . And most of the time, we [women] maybe get to do a slap. . . . It’s just so refreshing to put all of that training to use.”
The production, she said, is big on action. “I think so many people have a misguided idea of Shakespeare as a very static, very — [at this she adopted a mock-dramatic, booming voice] ‘We stand around and we declare poetry to each other and walk dramatically!’ What surprised me the most is . . . how much the story is helped by all of this action. It’s really astonishing.”
Five actors share all the parts in Faction’s production, switching masks and costumes to distinguish among roles, and the show comes in at a 70 -minute clip. Matt Wilson, the director, has been envisioning the project for about 10 years.
Keeping in the tradition of commedia dell’arte, the characters will wear half-masks, covering the top of the face but leaving the mouth free to speak.
In addition to highlighting the action, Faction’s show brings out some unexpected humor. For instance, when Juliet’s family thinks she’s dead, “it’s hilarious!” insisted Wilhelm. “It’s so overdone. . . . If you really read through it, it’s got all these, ‘O woe! O lamentable day!’ It’s just maniacal in a way.” The language, she explained, crosses over from drama to melodrama to borderline ridiculous, suggesting Shakespeare’s intent was to get a laugh from the audience, who, knowing Juliet is still alive, would be in on the joke.
“I knew the text was funny,” Wilson said. “I didn’t realize how funny it was.”
Thursday to Feb. 4, Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW, factionoffools.org.