The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
These Paper Bullets

"I need a Quaalude!"—Higgy.
Photo: (L-R) : Ariana Venturi, Kate Blumberg and Nicole Parker. (Photo credit Michael Lamont)
So much of These Paper Bullets! is so completely shagadelic that if Austin Powers turned up, he would be in psychedelic paradise. Playwright Rolin Jones and director Jackson Gay transplant Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing to 1964 London, giving the piece a Fawlty Towers sensibility and turning the central characters into a Beatles-like rock group. This marriage between bard and the '60s is played for maximum broadness; the yuks are plentiful; and a cat named Billie Joe Armstrong from some outfit called Green Day supplies the music (you know, that guy can fashion a tune. . .).

And here's a novelty. Perhaps the biggest source of enchantment comes from what would traditionally be an unlikely corner. A playgoer could attend 20 incarnations of Much Ado and never see the falsely slandered ingenue Hero walk off with the show. In Gay's production, amidst the mop tops and daft cops, amidst Jessica Ford's go-go outfits and some cool tunes, a Hero emerges. Miss Ariana Venturi, I can express no greater eloquence than to repeat the words of the aforementioned Mr. Powers: "Yeah, baby!"

Venturi plays Higgy, the daughter and heir to hotel bigwig Leo Messina (Nick Ullett). Leo has given over a floor of his Messina high rise to the Quartos, who have just returned from a world tour. The hottest thing to hit the airwaves since, well, since no one, the Quartos will use the space to cut their next album, party like crazy. They'll also advance the course of true love for the band's frontman Claude (Damon Daunno), who has fallen for Higgy practically at first sight. In addition to being an heiress and a model for her cousin Bea's (Nicole Parker) clothing line, Higgy is a bit of a druggie and a serious drama queen. But she's also irresistible.

Also ready for love, though he doesn't yet realize it, is the Quartos' commitment-phobic guitarist Ben (Justin Kirk) who had a previous fling with Bea. Now Bea and Ben do nothing but snipe at each other, prompting Quartos leader Pedro (James Barry), Higgy, Leo and company to trick them into falling in love. Don Best (Adam O'Byrne), Pedro's embittered half brother is still pissed over being ousted from the band and looks to sabotage the Higgy-Claude union.

All of these proceedings are being watched over covertly by the buffoonish police constable Mr. Berry (Greg Stuhr) who has a bunch of spiffy new gadgets and fancies himself James Bond. Scotland Yard reckons that the Quartos are contemporary England's chief threat to the downfall of today's youth. And given the evidence they collect, they may be on to something.

Playwright Jones clearly loves his Elizabethan source material as much as he enjoys mucking about in go-go Britannia with all its spoofable craziness. Shakespearean dialog is spliced into the proceedings and mixed with period friendly lingo without jarring effect. When wooing needs to take place, for example, it is often accomplished via a song like the trippy ballad "Baby Blue" or the late hour "Regretfully Yours." Using Beatles-era sounds as his base, Armstrong goes against easy pop, darkening and deepening the mood. Kirk, Daunno, Barry and Lucas Papaelias perform the songs live using orchestrator Tom Kitt's arrangements.

And don't those Quartos look so very Fab Four with their mop top hairdos and matching mod suits. With Bea as a trend-setting lady of fashion and Higgy the model whose image graces the side of every building, costume designer Jessica Ford is given plenty of license for brashness. Throw in Nicholas Hussong's projections and a highly functional turntable set by Michael Yeargan and the results are delicious.

Jones generally follows Much Ado's plot faithfully, occasionally deviating and riffing for comedic purposes. Between Beatles puns and digs at bardisms, there is plenty of opportunity for nudge-nudge humor. Kirk, whose Ben is perpetually in a cocky slouch, seems to take particular ironic satisfaction in any fourth-wall breaking satire. He excels equally in lover boy mode with Parker's Bea and as the philosophizing former womanizer brought to domesticity. For sheer comedy, it's tough to top the interplay between Stuhr's Constable Berry, Brad Heberlee as Berry's smarter subordinate Mr. Urges, and Tony Manna as Urges's co-investigator Mr. Cake.

Even amidst this much zaniness, nobody is taking this show away from Venturi. Bouncing Higgy from being outright adorable to roaring out a comic speech that is the motherlode of pre-wedding jitters, Venturi never lets us forget that there is plenty at stake in this bird's life even if the plot indicates otherwise. What a "Hero" she is!

Editor's Note: This is stop 2 of this zany show. We've already had a chance to cover it in Connecticut and will cover it again when it comes to the Atlantic Theater in New York from Nov 20, 2015 to Jan 10, 2016

These Paper Bullets! A Modish Ripoff of William Shakespeare's Much ado About Nothing
Book by Rolin Jones
Songs by Billie Joe Armstrong
Directed by Jackson Gay
Cast: James Barry, Kate Blumberg, Damon Daunno, Christopher Geary, Brad Heberlee, Justin Kirk, Tony Manna, Rod McLachlan, Keira Naughton, Adam O'Byrne, Lucas Papaelias, Nicole Parker, Greg Stuhr, Nick Ullett, Ariana Venturi
Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan
Costume Design: Jessica Ford
Lighting Design: Paul Whitaker
Sound Design and Incidental Music: Broken Chord
Projection Design: Nicholas Hussong
Orchestrator and Arranger: Tom Kitt
Music Director: Julie McBride
Choreographer: Kevin Williamson
Fight Choreographer: Mike Rossmy
Dramaturg: Catherine Sheehy
Production Stage Manager: Rob Chikar
Assistant Stage Manager: Bree Sherry
Song List: "Give It All To You," "Follow You Around," "Baby Blue," "Love Won't Wait," "Last Time," "Dreamcatcher," "Fall in Love and Love You Forever," "Regretfully Yours," "Keep Me Satisfied."
A Yale Repertory Theatre production, presented by the Geffen Playhouse and Atlantic Theater Company Plays through October 18, 2015 at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles. (310) 208-5454,
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one 15 minute intermission
Reviewed by Evan Henerson
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of These Paper Bullets!
  • I disagree with the review of These Paper Bullets!
  • The review made me eager to see These Paper Bullets!
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Anything Goes Cast Recording Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

©Copyright 2015, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from