[FEATURE] #R</3J, a multimedial hallucination of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Disclaimer: This isn’t a formal ~critique~ of the play; this is more of me fangirling over DUP so if you’re here to copy-paste this shit, paraphrase it a little then submit it as a reaction paper to your professor then go fuck yourself half joke hahahaha no, seriously. Plagiarism is a crime and yes I know I’m not that important to plagiarize my words but still. Just covering all the bases.

I hate recycling how I start my essays and stuff I generally write, but saying that DUP has once again over-exceeded my expectations is just me stating a fact so I guess there’s no going around that.

(dreamy sigh)

Dulaang UP—they will never disappoint, will they? I clearly remember gushing over Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig for days (weeks!) when I watched it last February, saying that DUP has reached their best in my eyes. And now here I am, taking back my words all because I was entirely wrong about it being their best prod for me.

I thought Bilanggo ng Pag-ibig was already the best. I was wrong. Then again, bests are supposed to be outdone and surpassed, aren’t they?

So. Remember the pact I made last time, when I said I’d watch every remaining DUP production in my undergrad years? This is me keeping the streak to two prods in a row. I watched the this season’s premier show, #R</3J on a whim with my sister—fresh meat in college!—who was then required to watch it for some GE subject. The funny thing is, I almost forgot that I was scheduled to watch it because I was busy worrying about an exam lol. Luckily, I saw the ticket in my wallet the morning of the show.

#R</3J, a multimedial hallucination on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. If you weren’t intrigued by the title, you’d definitely be intrigued by that–a multimedial hallucination. It’s a remake of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and at first I was skeptic about the plot because back in high school I really hated Romeo and Juliet. Call me cynical or plain bitter, but their love story was no romance for me back then. Romeo was stupid. Juliet was stupid. The whole idea of how their story became tragic was stupid. Romeo and Juliet was not romantic at all for the 14-year-old me.

#R</3J changed that.

I knew that I would be blown away by the show (hello, it’s DUP), but I didn’t think I would be so blown away.

Think High School Musical minus the flowery love of Gabriela and Troy, the musicals and the fake Disney friendships. #R</3J was less about Romeo and Juliet but more about today’s youth. The truth about today’s youth. If you thought that the HSM movies were your high school life’s movies, #R</3J is The Now. It tells the story of this generation without the rose-tinted glasses, with a bright spotlight pointed towards the corners of our generation with their unspoken secrets. The focus is the true colors of this generation.

Technology and social media. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol.

And I guess not just today’s youth but a bit shade throwing to a typical trapo’s family, the life of the rich and their familial (sometimes their lack thereof) ties.

There’s so much to say about the production as a whole. The plot was amazing, the twists and surprising deviations from Shakespeare’s original gave it an identity apart from the classic’s shadow. With the characterization, the persona modeled after Romeo and the one after Juliet—they lifted the story from Shakespeare’s words and owned it, transformed it, and set the background to the same landscapes we could understand and relate to, even if Verona Global City was fictional.

R Montes was no medieval young man hung up over the beautiful Rosaline. He was a teenager who masturbates over his ex-girlfriend’s borderline pornographic videos of repeatedly saying “I love you, baby”–a typical brooding teenager using photography as a form of expression, the typical teenager who’s dramatic on Facebook.

J Capule was no simpering, sighing girl in her balcony. She’s a star, a bitch in angel’s clothing—the bad, bad girl. She wasn’t Juliet; she was J, the celebrity goody-girl on cam who crushes the hearts of boys and goes through a pack of cigarettes in the blink of an eye behind the scenes. She wasn’t the sheltered unica hija of the Capule family. She wasn’t the type of girl who curls up in bed with her diary and pink ballpen; she thrives in parties filled with alcohol and the promise of debauchery and R found her fucking splendid.

Yeah, Minzy showing you how to be a #legit J Capule

The use of multimedia elements was amazing, genius—fresh. Instead of making the whole performance jej (lol sorry for the term), it gave me, as a part of the audience, a heightened and somehow more involved grasp of the whole story. The injection of pop culture did not lessen the class of the whole production; it made everything more attainable, more surreal and real at the same time. The dialogues were no less than amazing—

“You were splendid.”

“If you love me, I will hurt you…”
“Then I will love you from afar…”

“Love is a drug, but never say NO to drugs.”

Seriously, who the fuck says that?? And more importantly, who the fuck receives those kinds of declarations and doesn’t melt into nothing??? J Capule, apparently. Although I bet inside her (initially) black heart, something twitched and wriggled and protested because hoe, how to recover from an angsty teenage boy’s romantic declarations?

Between Mr. Darcy’s use of “ardent” and R’s use of “splendid” how aRE YOU NOT SWOONING

Don’t even get me started with the choreography. Ugh. That’s all I can say about it and it’s open to interpretation.

Okay, I lied. “Ugh” doesn’t cut it but it does make a good start. I have next to nothing when it comes to experience in dancing except for my comedic flailing during high school dance parties and the occasional drunken twerks with my friends but anyone who has eyes and a heart will definitely be moved by the choreography. Seriously. Just the intro’s acrobatic, daredevil, air acts (sorry I don’t have the proper words to describe it lol) already had my jaw on the floor. The club scene was cute and accurate as hell. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming to the eyes because there was so much to see and so many things were happening simultaneously—French kissing in dark corners, subtle public sex, gyrating bodies and the dance itself—but I still liked it. It was chaotic. It was Reality.

The show wasn’t just about its aesthetic accomplishments and breakthroughs. The way it reflected today’s youth struck me hard with how straightforward it was. I was watching it with my sixteen-year-old sister who has never stepped foot into a ~legit~ party and she was a bit shocked with the vulgarity of everything, but I just told her, “Dude, it can’t get any more accurate than this without actually being public indecency. Welcome to college life.”

High School Musical might have been about dreaming and achieving and getting through problems related to friendship and romance, and I guess our generation needed that ten years ago as kids who were just starting to develop crushes and build our dreams. But this is now. We’re not the bright-eyed kids who blushed easily over words like “sex” and “kissing” ten years ago. Not everyone is (and will be) as lucky as Gabriela and Troy whose problems were mostly about choosing the best Ivy League or choosing between Juilliard and a university with a good sports program.

Today’s youth smokes cigarettes and marijuana, has sex with random strangers in dingy motel rooms, binges on alcohol, has mental and psychological problems, commits suicide physically and emotionally. Technology is our double-edged sword of a friend. #R</3J showed us that while we could express ourselves through technology and social media, it’s not a one-way street. We could lie and create a persona for ourselves in the Internet and no one will find out. Someone can reach out and ruin us with just a few clicks. Today, technology plays a key role in shaping our lives, our personalities, our behavior. The subsequent deaths of Tybalt’s and Benvolio’s adapted characters showed that.

The whole production tickled and slapped my senses, and it definitely kicked my thinking gears. The end, when the screen showed a realtime (not so sure about this) footage of the audience—I’m still wondering why it ended like that instead of a curtain call. Was it a message–a symbolic one–that said that the story wasn’t just R’s and J’s, but of all of us? Was it a reflection, telling us that we are all a part of the plot, the cycle, as everybody else is in this Age of Information? Was it a warning telling us the inevitable end of everyone in this generation? Was it supposed to just mind fuck us as a final “hallucination” to make us think critically about the whole story?

I’m pretty sure I can’t consider this as “reading into it too much” because it’s DUP—it’s supposed to be critical, supposed to make us think critically. For me, that’s the beauty of being privileged enough to experience the subliminal edges of other people’s craft.

(I’m actually interested to know how far my mini theories are from The Truth, or if they’re already small truths on their own LOL. Please theorize with me if you happen to come across my existence.)

P.S. I really want to commend the members of the cast who used to be my classmates in some GE classes especially one of the main characters lol. I felt awkward at the beginning because I couldn’t separate your persona from the people I interacted with in the classroom and the ones on stage, but in the end you just wowed me, classmate or not hahahaha. Great job guys! ❤

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