The surprise highlight of a busy theatre weekend was courtesy of a choreographer who’s not afraid to break with convention and do the unpredictable—namely Mats Ek of the Royal Swedish Ballet. His “Juliet & Romeo” (at Segerstrom Center for the Arts) delivered the unexpected at every turn—bold, economic, wildly original and slyly humorous at times.

Ema Yuasa (Juliet) and Marie Lindqvist (the Nurse) were a delight, but the high point had to be Clyde Emmanuel Archer’s (Mercutio) bare-chested tutu-clad solo, giving full reign to the character’s defiant spirit. RSB’s first visit to SCFTA in 16 years was a decided triumph; hopefully they won’t wait that long to return. Meanwhile, the Center’s celebratory “Tour de Force III” (Aug. 27) brings back such acclaimed dancers as Diana Vishneva, Natalia Osipova and Marcelo Gomes, to name just three virtuosos who have lit up the stage on previous visits.

If Juliet & Romeo’s romantic encounters were pure poetry in the hands of Mats Ek, the simulated sex is much more graphic in Peter Weiss’ avant-garde “Marat/Sade” (in the Studio at Long Beach Playhouse through July 9). But what else should we expect of a show that asks the question, “What’s the point of a revolution without general copulation?”

This overtly theatrical, rarely-staged play (for the record, the full title is “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade”) has a lot more than sex on its mind, though—including war, class struggle and social violence. It’s play-within-a-play set in an institution, as the title suggests, a pageant about the last days of French patriot Marat in the chaotic aftermath of the French Revolution.

Noah Wagner makes a strong visual impression as the infamous Sade, and conveys his vulnerability in an unexpected moment. Mark Bowen offers a good contrast as Marat; Liz Waite shines as the inmate playing Charlotte Corday, the delusional country girl who holds his fate in her hands. Lorne Stevenson and Melissa Donn stand out among the capable ensemble cast, under the attentive direction of Andrew Vonderschmitt. Donna Fritsche’s costumes are evocative.

Sixteen actors playing fourteen characters, four doors (five counting an armoire) and a lot of furious scurrying about could only be a recipe for a French sex farce. Georges Feydeau’s “An Absolute Turkey,” adapted from “Le Dindon” by Nicki Frei and Peter Hall (at Fullerton’s STAGES through Jul. 17) promises pretty much what one expects—horny Pontagnac in pursuit of virtuous Lucienne, who agrees to cuckold her husband if given proof of his unthinkable infidelity.

There are inspired moments of frantic physical comedy superbly executed under Shawn Brewer’s direction—chief among them a harried set change performed to the accompaniment of “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Andrea Birkholm’s colorful costumes and Michael J. Keeney’s fight choreography add to the hilarity.

However, a number of the actors lack the necessary subtlety to cook the soufflé to perfection, and much of it falls flat. Some, including Erica Jackson (Lucienne), Amy Lauren Gettys and Lucy Abel, apply just the right touch. Others, notably Zachary Salene (Pontagnac), are overly broad. Farce is a delicate balance to be sure. Trust the material and you’ll likely succeed; goose it for a few extra laughs and you’ll probably fall on your face.

Author: Jordan R. Young

Jordan R. Young is a journalist, show business historian, playwright and theatre critic. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways, AAA Tour Books, and The People’s Almanac.