Monday, July 28, 2008

Romeo and Juliet - a review

Event: Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare Santa Cruz
Cost: Buy tickets here- costs range from $12- $44. Our tickets were "comp'ed".


Charles Pasternak (Romeo) and Caitlin FitzGerald (Juliet) in SSC's 2008 production of Romeo and Juliet.
Photo: R.R. Jones

(Hunky, n'est pas?)

The Review:

Like I said on the Podcast, Romeo and Juliet is not one of my favorite plays, and had my tickets not been comp’ed, I likely would not have attended. This would have been an epic mistake.

For the venue alone, it was worth it, but it was so much better than just a pleasant venue. Shakespeare Santa Cruz has an indoor theater (where we saw Bach at Leipzig) and an outdoor theater, where we saw Romeo and Juliet.

The outdoor theater is charming- still intimate while having enough space to be comfortable. The smells and sounds of the woods surround you, adding to the experience.

[WARNING: First time attendees- bring blankets and seat cushions. Santa Cruz gets very cold at night.]

Let’s talk about the play. We all know the plot, right?

Most of the cast is dressed in contemporary clothing, but some are in semi-Elizabethan garb. Somehow, the old and the new blend together. The older characters tend to be the ones in the Elizabethan clothing, which is an interesting juxtaposition.

My personal biases against the play are many; however, it was executed so well that ten minutes into the show, all thoughts of “overdone” and “cheesy” were fleeting.

When Romeo appears, offstage, you expect the traditionally “emo” Romeo. Sure, the show starts that way, but the secondary characters are so funny, that he seems like the appropriately lovelorn teen. In preparing for the Capulet’s ball, there is a lovely parallel between Romeo’s friends primping and preparing him and Juliet’s mother and nurse grooming her for the party.

Juliet’s appearance is reminiscent of a young Anne Dudek, and while the actress appears physically mature, her delivery of the role reminds the audience that while one may appear to be mature, they aren't, necessarily. I have never been so convinced that Juliet really is fourteen years old. She captures the haste and despair that seems to always accompany young love.

The “Pilgrims/prayers” scene (at the Capulet ball, pictured above) made my heart stand still. Seated in the audience, you can feel the electricity between Romeo and Juliet.

It made me feel fourteen years old again. Somehow, after rehearsals and multiple performances, the actors have managed to keep the scene feeling young, frantic, and authentic. (It doesn’t hurt that Romeo is a total hunk. I’m just saying.)

To be honest, until I watched this production, I hadn't realized how funny the first act of the show is. Every other interpretation has been so mired with the eventual outcome of the couple that it has dragged down the whole show. The actors managed to keep the production funny and light in the beginning, and appropriately poignant in the second act.

Other things worth noting are that throughout the show, there is some interaction with the audience, but it’s minimal and well-executed. Due to the way the outdoor theater is set up, entrances and exits are made through the audience, bringing you into the action. It’s fantastic.

If you get a chance to attend any Shakespeare Santa Cruz productions, DO. They do an excellent job and have unusually attractive casts. If not for the culture, it seems to be worth attending solely for the eye -candy.

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