“The course of true love never did run smooth… So quick bright things come to confusion,” declares one infatuated lover to another in a moment of heightened feeling while plotting transgression against the wishes of his family and the laws of the land. If you protest that the play was “Midsummer” and not “Romeo and Juliet,” you’re missing the psychological associations that bind all erotic endeavors into the same cackling amalgamation of pleasure and pandemonium. “Farewell My Friend,” (re)discover theatre’s new immersive theater experience directed by Janet Howe and Matt Wills, plunges audience members into an impassioned cacophony with a labyrinth of tableaux, dances, fight sequences, rituals and installations enlivened by the “tragic romance of star-crossed lovers”—Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult and an assortment of their parents, guardians and spirit animals.
The rumpus begins when you draw a card that sorts you into the house of Capulet or Montague—divisions illustrated not merely by the representation of people of color in the feuding families but also by the cultures they embody: a coolly rational universe of poetry, games, orthodox religion, marriage and repressed domestic abuse versus a hot-blooded jungle of music, divination, superstition, absent fathers and explosive street violence. To put it simply, given a pack of cards, do you play poker and clean out your friends or do you read tarot and drive out spirits?
Viewers are given license to roam relatively freely through Epworth Church, impressively transformed with paper, string and cardboard in a design by Brandin Hurley. Tara Bouldrey is a free-spirited, patchouli-drenched Juliet, smitten by her classically romantic Romeo (Raj Bond) and oppressed by her martial father (James Bould). As her parallel, Karissa J. Murrell Myers (Iseult) is spritely, elemental and savage in a role primarily expressed through movement and vocalization. Costuming by Virginia Swift Varland is erratic but no more so than the rest of the production. (Irene Hsiao)
(re)discover theatre at Epworth Church, 5253 North Kenmore, rediscovertheatre.com, $25. Through September 24.