JOB: THE HIP-HOP MUSICAL written and performed by Eli Batalion and Jerome Saibil. Presented by Foqué de la tête Productions in association with the Tarragon at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to March 9, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15, stu/srs $12, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN
Romeo/Juliet remixed written and directed by Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley, with Joel Gordon, Sara Moyle, True Daley, Jack Grinhaus, Hugh Barnett, Stephenos Christou, Steven Burley and Pip Dwyer. Presented by Spark Productions at the Great Hall (1087 Queen West). Runs to March 29, Wednesday-Thursday 8 pm, Friday-Saturday 7:30 and 10 pm. $22.75-$31.75, same-day student rush $15. 416-870-8000. Rating: NN
Two music-filled, fuck-the-english-department adaptations of classic texts return after last year's Fringe Festival. One succeeds spectacularly while the other fizzles fast. First the gem. Eli Batalion and Jerome Saibil's Job: The Hip-Hop Musical reworks the biblical story about misfortune and faith by placing it in a contemporary New York setting.
In the head office of the hiphop-based Hoover Records, star employee Job Lowe soon finds himself plummeting down the corporate ladder.
Watching over his fall are company president J. Hoover and his manipulative VP Lou Saphire, along with a bunch of nicely etched finger-waving, philosophy-spouting employees and Job's tenure-seeking academic wife.
Despite the pun, head honcho J. Hoover isn't quite the Bible's Jehovah, and so Batalion and Saibil's overall comparison at times feels contrived. They more than make up for that with brilliant rhymes, efficient staging -- a virtuosic boardroom scene stands out -- and a dozen well-executed characterizations.
Batalion and Saibil, besides narrating the piece with po-mo perfection (a rhyme-off in the middle of the packed hour-long show kicks meta-ass), switch between characters. Batalion's especially good at evoking Brit accents, while Saibil lets loose his happy demons playing the weaselly Lou Saphire and a slightly bored secretary.
My only quibbles? The show begins at too a high a level, immediately bombarding our solar plexi with rhymes about the show's themes and its dramatis personae sung over a great Prokofiev sample. There's lots of intelligence there, but it's hard to get our bearings. The ending also feels tacked on, something that should be addressed in the show's sequel this summer at the Fringe.
Job's brilliance is achieved with a minimal set -- a white towel, some bottles of water. On the other hand, Romeo/Juliet Remixed, a version of the Bard's tragedy set at a rave, uses maximum effects for minimal payoff.
It's all about style, which has its attractions. Props, costumes and technical doodads are a big deal in this show. When you enter the Great Hall's chill-out room (ooh! massages! ooh! face-painting!), you're given either a yellow or pink glow-in-the-dark necklace, which later brands you a Capulet or Montague. Cool idea.
Once the show begins, however, and the cute club kids begin butchering Shakespeare's tragedy, the razzle-dazzle wears off. Ooh! I'm bored!
Director/adaptors Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley offer a point-form version of the story, and unless you're on as much drugs as the characters -- did I forget to mention that Friar Laurence is a dealer? -- the show's sloppy logic won't make sense.
After killing a female Tybalt (the gender-bending is refreshing but unoriginal), Romeo is banished. From what? The club? Why doesn't Juliet just follow him outside?
The star of the show is Nicola Pantin's high-energy, high-kicking choreography, which provides the only consistent pleasure. Apart from Stephenos Christou's drag queen Nurse and Pip Dwyer's rockin' Tybalt, the young cast seem way more comfortable using their bodies than their firstname.lastname@example.org