ROMEO AND JULIET may be a classic, but thanks to the talented cast and creative staging the new production at The Old Globe this story has yet to grow old. Playing through September 15th this production will remind audiences of all the passion, pitfalls, and emotional mood swings of youth and first love.
It is fair Verona where this stage is set, and per usual the Capulets and the Montague’s are still mortal enemies. This show focuses on the youthfulness of the main characters, and really all the other characters as well. After all, what is a better example of teenage impulsiveness and lack of thinking something through than a hasty and secret wedding and then going back to their respective houses like nothing ever happened?
Instead of a serious and somber story, where the romantic leads seem like they are already aware of the tragedy to befall them this production is fun, feisty, and feels very modern. This production directed by Barry Edelstein starts with the elementary school age Romeo (Jaydn Washington) and Juliet (Veda Cienfuegos) happily playing together before their parents and family animosity separates them.
As Rogers and Hammerstein wrote, “You’ve got to be carefully taught…” and it seems that everyone on both sides has learned their lessons of hatred well. The set by (Takeshi Kata) has a giant sandbox that dominates the stage and only serves to enhance the feeling of school yard fights as they all taunt each other.
When next we see him, Romeo (Aaron Clifton Moten) is fresh from being rejected by Rosaline. Like many a teenager with a broken heart Romeo is channeling his teenage heartbreak by picking up a guitar and trying to process his feelings through song. Mercutio (Ben Chase) and Benvolio (Morgan Taylor) try to cheer him up and they end up at Capulet’s party that evening.
Juliet (Louisa Jacobson) is getting ready for the party with her mother Lady Capulet (Sofia Jean Gomez), and the Nurse (Candy Buckley). At the party Juliet takes center stage and catches everyone’s attention singing “Copacabana” – a song of love and loss and the final lyric of ”Don’t fall in love.” This production gives more weight to the prophetic predictions both Romeo and Juliet say throughout the show.
Jacobson and Moten are excellent as the lead characters, able to capture both the euphoria and the despair of these characters. Moten is loose-limbed, sweet, and a little goofy which only makes him all the more charming to the audience and Juliet. Jacobson is playful and dreamy; with a touch of rebellion that makes her sneaking off to a secret wedding seem plausible later on. Their goodbyes during the balcony scene play out as the Shakespearean version of “No, you hang up first” and are really delightful.
Buckley is very funny as the Nurse, she’s not the ancient companion the character is so often portrayed. Instead she’s like a sex crazed Endora from ”Bewitched”; saucy, sharp -tongued, and outrageous. Chase as Mercutio is another standout, as well as Yadira Correa who as the bloodthirsty Tybalt seems to have a delightfully unending supply of weapons on her person. Jesse J. Perez is also excellent as the supportive Friar Laurence.
The play is accompanied by original music from Mark Bennett played by the exceedingly talented pianist Justin Gray adding to the romance and then building to the ever more tragic circumstances.
This more modern and daring production may not play to those who consider the classic format the pinnacle. The first act is so buoyant and fun that the theatrics of the second act can seem a bit like emotional whiplash. Yet, somehow it feels perfectly appropriate for the story of these teenage lovebirds. What could be more dramatic than the emotions of teenagers?
ROMEO AND JULIET is playing at The Old Globe through September 15th. For ticket and show time information go to www.theoldglobe.org