Review: Theatre University of New Brunswick returns with The Romeo Initiative

Theatre University of New Brunswick made its post-COVID-19 return with a bang with its production of "The Romeo Initiative." (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Theatre University of New Brunswick made its post-COVID-19 return with a bang with its production of The Romeo Initiative.

The spy-based, romantic comedy was written by Trina Davis and was directed by fourth-year UNB student Juliane Richard. 

Richard said TUNB wanted something exciting with “lots of twists” and technical elements.

“We just figured people haven’t been in our theatre in-person in nearly two years. Go big or go home,” said Richard. 

Their efforts were not in vain, as the show’s run from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30 presented a hilarious and wacky, yet suspenseful interpretation of the play. 

The plot of The Romeo Initiative centres around a young secretary named Karin, played by Kelly McAllister, who meets and falls in love with a spy named Markus, played by David Charters, while on vacation. As the two form a relationship, she naively falls for his manipulation tactics, blind to both the fact that he is using her to gain documents from her work and to his relationship with her friend and boss’ mistress Lena, played by STU graduate Naomi McGowan. 

But, Richard never allows the play to take itself too seriously. All the characters are lively and vibrant and each of them have moments where they are human-to-a-fault. 

“When I read it, all I could see was a 1970s fever dream, “ said Richard. “I’ve looked at previous production photos … I think generally, people pull out the serious undertones of the play. I’ve instead chosen to lighten the mood a bit, pull out the comedic undertones, and hopefully, people will laugh and find entertainment and relief in watching it.”  

Kelly McAllister, left, played Karin in “The Romeo Initiative.” Fourth-year University of New Brunswick student Juliane Richard directed the play. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

The first half of the show had me cackling with laughter at Karin’s awkwardness around Markus, Lena’s blunt and honest quips at Karin, and the adorably domestic scenes between Markus and Karin. 

I must also acknowledge the wonderful job that the technical team did with music, stage movements and lighting. 

The show’s soundtrack was jam-worthy and I found myself bobbing my head along in the audience during transitions. The music was skillfully used to either build or relieve tension depending on the scene and added to the more comical elements. 

A brilliant example from the show is when Lena is dancing on the couch of Karin’s apartment belting out “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gayner as Karin drinks while sobbing onto her coffee table after she temporarily breaks up with Markus.

For all its comedy, however, the production had its equal share of tension and suspense. 

The spy-based plot has several plot twists that will make you gasp. Betrayals, hidden feelings, secret identities — the show really does have it all. 

Most of these twists happen in the second act and create an eerie off-set to the comedic, lighthearted first act.

The Romeo Initiative is riveting and the TUNB cast and crew should be proud of the masterful production that they put forward.