Written by Scott Keister
Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of John Hughes’ 1985 film, The Breakfast Club. I’m not of that teen-era, and I found it to be simplistic teen melodrama (possibly my least favorite genre) flat and one-dimensional characters built on stereotypes that “grow” only within the ninety minutes of the film. That being said, an adaptation of the film for stage has to stand on its own merits. It can’t rely on foreknowledge of the film. Five Knaves for Breakfast, running currently at StagesTheatre, relies far too heavily on love for the film to entrance its audience. Without that devotion, there is not much interest.
The idea was to create a version of the film as a Shakespearean mash-up of sorts
—The Breakfast Club written in faux Elizabethan verse —very faux. If Hero P. Carlisle’s script had set out to be either a parody of The Breakfast Club or Shakespeare it may have had more to offer. But aside from a few neat turns of Elizabethan phrase to echo actual snippets of dialog from the film, there is very little to chuckle at, and you’d have to be a fan of the film to recognize those. Even that strategy vanishes after the first fifteen minutes or so as the play sinks into a very direct recreation of the movie —albeit set in Florence, Italy during the Middle Ages. One wonders if the teens of that era would really be as concerned with the troubles that so worried the modern day teens of the film. Considering life expectancy in Elizabethan times was around 50 and there were small things like the plague and war to worry about, you’d think being unpopular or being bullied would be minor quibbles. But no. Apparently teenage dilemma has never changed.
I have a hard time figuring out what this production was aiming for. The story itself is so well-worn, merely changing the era does nothing but muddy it. The performances, for the most part, do little to bring any depth to the characters:
F ive teenagers of disparate stations in life are thrown together for one day as a punishment for some infractions they have committed. The idea is they eventually open up to each other, resolve their differences and learn people are not really so different. Whatever. Cameron Moore as the teenage rebel, Jon (Judd Nelson from the original) is the lone standout —electric, jaunty and bold. The others have one or two nice moments, but overall they fall victim to the flatness of the concept. Jill Johnson directs with energy, but is handcuffed by the stale material.
Shakespeare himself wrote his own treatise on teenage turmoil—agitation with parents, rebellion against authority, trouble with the law, the pain of love—and it was fairly successful. It’s called Romeo and Juliet. Check it out some time.
Five Knaves for Breakfast runs Saturdays and Sundays at 5 pm through February 21. http://www.stagesoc.org/