Here is the recipe: one part ersatz Shakespeare, one part ersatz Beatles, one part fake British accents. Bake for almost two and a half hours. Will you like it? I suppose that’s a matter of taste.
Rolin Jones has used “Much Ado About Nothing” to tell an imaginary story about four lads from Liverpool (James Barry, Justin Kirk, Damon Daunno, and Lucas Papaelias) with a wildly successful band that puts them in the limelight with girls, the media and the world at their feet. It is a mod mod 1960’s world with a super model named Higgy (Arians Venturi) [Higgy/Twiggy, get it?] and a designer of plastic raincoats and matching boots named Bea (Nicole Parker). It is a world awash in adulation, sex, booze, drugs and rock and roll. The stage rotates periodically and the lads bellow out a Song by Billie Joe Armstrong that sounds vaguely like you have heard it before, but you have not. They are actually quite good, if an order of decibels higher than most of the audience would have chosen, but you will not remember any of the derivative tunes. Never mind.
I am no Shakespeare scholar. Suffice it to say “Paper Bullets” adheres sufficiently closely to the original that it goes on too long and begs the question, ‘does a 16th century farce really work as a rock and roll vehicle?’ Jones succeeds best when he wanders furthest. The wedding scene where Quaalude and booze-laced Higgy is to marry the falsely self-righteous Claude is terrific. Pauline Nobel plays the part of a breathless
BBC reporter covering the event. A cameraman covers her every move and it is projected in two places on the scrim behind the actors. Best left undescribed, the scene is fresh and left me wishing Jones had not been constrained by the Shakespeare conceit.
“Paper Bullets entertains in an insubstantial way. Except for the accents and affected speech Jackson Gay’s direction is crisp and the lads do a credible job of being a Beatles wanna-be cover band. Do we really need a redo of “Much Ado About Nothing?” Personally, I would prefer ‘Much Ado About Something.’