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Reduxion Theatre Company adapts version of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'

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Reduxion Theatre Company was founded by local actor and director Tyler Woods in 2000. After relocating to New York, he and his wife, Erin, decided to re-brand the company in a way that would stand out, even in the crowded New York scene.

"Romeo and Juliet" is the first production mounted by Reduxion since the pair returned to Oklahoma earlier this year. Tyler Woods was excited about directing the play.

PREMIERE
SCENE STEALING

"It's something I had always wanted to do. It's the quintessential love story," he said. "It's a tragedy to be sure, but I've always seen it as a hopeful play. It's a beautiful tale of love conquering all. Even though Romeo and Juliet die, their love heals their families' wounds and there's a promise of hope for the future."

Inspiration came to them while watching an Asian film, and the couple decided to set the classic tale in post-World War II Japan. Settling on 1957 "? a time when there was still plenty of post-war angst between the Japanese and Americans to tap into "? the company worked to retain some of the more traditional styles of dress and social etiquette that had attracted them to the idea.

By setting the play in Japan, they said they created a casting challenge for themselves.

"We were told by people in the theater community and elsewhere that 'you'll never find the people you'll need to fill the roles.' However, we were very lucky to find some incredible actors, most of whom are from Japan," Erin Woods said.

PREMIERE
The company's bold adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" premiered at Stage Center last week and continues through Dec. 13.

The triumph of the production is that the adaptation works, creating a truly fresh take on a play with which most theatergoers are probably all too familiar. The conflicts between the two houses take on interesting and unexpected cultural and political overtones that resonate with a modern audience in ways that two feuding families from 17th-century Italy don't.

The real problem with this production is also one of its successes: the Asian cast. While the performances are physically and emotionally spot-on, the line deliveries can, at times, be very difficult to understand. This creates a big problem, as there aren't a lot of silent moments in Shakespeare. Things are further confused by whites who fill out the play's Japanese roles bearing no accent at all.

Even with these issues, the play has some incredible performances. At only 17, Ty Fanning is stunning as Romeo, delivering a confident and pitch-perfect performance full of surprising nuance. Tomoko Saito is beautiful and exuberant as Juliet. Quinn Gasaway is a delight as Mercutio, bringing the right balance of witty charm and raunchy humor to the character. Rory Littleton gives a warm and moving performance as Friar Laurence.

SCENE STEALING
Chris Curtis gives a wide-ranging performance as Lord Capulet "? from ebullient party host, to spiteful patriarch, to heartbroken father. Jon Haque is almost too good at what he does, stealing scene after scene as the hilarious Capulet servant, Peter. Strong performances are also turned in by Erin Woods as Nurse, and Mao Yanagawa, who creates a Tybalt like you've never seen before, defying both race and gender expectations.

While not extravagant, the production values are consistently high with fantastic costumes, simple but well-designed sets and effective lighting that come together to create some very beautiful visuals throughout the play.

Most of the staging is excellent, but there are a few places that are lacking: The fight choreography could be faster-paced; the Capulet party scene is almost too active, taking attention away from Romeo and Juliet's first meeting; and the choice for "Amazing Grace" to be sung as Juliet's body is carried away, rather than a traditional Japanese song, seemed like a misstep.

In many ways, Reduxion Theater has achieved its goals by creating a fresh but faithful take on a classic play that enriches the text without overriding it, by filling the stage with a cast of unique and ethically diverse actors, and by creating an overall sense of classiness  not always present in other local productions of Shakespeare.

What problems there are should not keep would-be audiences away. If they fall short in some ways, it's only because the company reached so high.

With "Romeo and Juliet" Reduxion has established itself as an important new voice in Oklahoma theater and their efforts are worth seeing and supporting. 

"?Eric Webb

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