By Ernest Kearney  —  If you’re a fan of Pat Benatar, Invincible is a must see, and if you’re not, see it anyway.  The concept is not new, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet in a modern setting with music. 

But that recognizable concept, through the arrangements of Jesse Vargas and Neil Giraldo, takes on a new and exciting persona that allows and supports the boundless energy of Invincible’s staging, while providing fuel for the enthralling dynamism of its performers.

Benatar, with her collaborator/husband Neil Giraldo, has ingeniously arranged memorable tunes and classic hits from their Grammy crammed careers to cape, Bradley Bredeweg’s refashioned tale of the most celebrated pair of lovers in all of English literature.

But in Invincible, it is not the stars that cross the fate of Romeo (Khamary Rose) and Juliet (Kay Sibal) but a malevolence more immediate and pernicious in today’s world: the state.

The creative powers behind Invincible have chosen to delineate and distance their effort by cleverly dispensing and altering certain elements of Shakespeare’s plotting while wisely paying homage to his language, and Bredeweg has laced the Bard’s verses into his own book. 

In Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare chose to pass over the cause of the bitter antagonism between the plays two noble families, but the conflict was a political one instigated by religion. 

During the 12th and 13th centuries medieval Italy was the battleground in a struggle between Europe’s secular and sacred forces known as the Investiture Controversy.  Those who favored the secular cause were called Ghibellines, those siding with the pope, the Guelphs.

Though the Controversy was resolved in 1122 with the Concordat of Worms, the bitterness remained rooted in the Italian peninsula for decades afterward.

The Montagues were Ghibellines, the Capulets were Guelphs.

So Bredeweg’s choice to shift the forces propelling the narrative from the clash of the immature hearts of youth against the hardened and embittered hearts of the aged to a conflict entirely political is in harmony with the source story that first attracted Shakespeare.

The play opens shortly after a popular uprising of the people, with the Montagues at the forefront.  This uprising has been brutally suppressed by forces loyal to the dominant Capulet family.  Now Verona‘s streets are filled with the truncheon armed black shirts under the ruthless control of Paris (Brennin Hunt).  

Both Romeo’s father and Juliet’s are absent here, with Romeo’s father killed in the conflict and Juliet’s having been murdered shortly after its end, with suspicion for the deed falling on Romeo’s family.  The mothers of the two lovers take prominence in Invincible.  Madame Montague (Dionne Gipson) struggles to keep her defeated street forces from giving the Capulet house an excuse to renew the war, and Madame Capulet (Sharon Leal) is trying to keep her daughter and herself safe from the political conspiracies surrounding them.

Director Tiffany Nichole Greene has been given a lot to work with and in handling it she succeeds with extraordinary dexterity.   

On a stark, multilevel set by Arnel Sancianco, Greene manages to pace the show’s two-hour playing time with such craft that after the final curtain and prolonged ovation you could overhear half the audience insisting “That was never two hours!”

“Invincible” Ensemble. Photo By: Sean Daniels / DVR PRODUCTIONS

Credit must also be given to the show’s ensemble whose talents belie their youthfulness by at least a half dozen light years.

The arrangements of such beloved Benatar standards as Heartbreaker, Hell is for Children, We Belong and others by Vargas and Giraldo take on new forms in service to the narrative needs of Invincible that requires the cast to breathe new life into these re-imagined classics and that they do superbly.

In addition to those already mentioned, Ari Notartomaso as Benvolio, Julia Harriman as the Nura, Jon Patrick Walker as the Friar and Aaron Alcaraz as the ever-irrepressible Mercutio succeed in standing out in an ensemble entirely composed of standouts.

Galen Hooks’ choreography supplies perfect form and shape to the incredible energy throbbing throughout the show.

Invincible is a vibrant, surprising production that doesn’t merely blow the roof off The Wallis, but shoots it up through the thermosphere leaving one to expect that Opportunity, NASA’s rover on Mars, will soon have company.     

* * *



DECEMBER 18, 2022

The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater

The Wallis Annenberg for the Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

For Additional Information and Tickets Go To

or Phone


* * *

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

No comments


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.