William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet opened this weekend at IRT, 140 W. Washington Street, as part of the theater’s Shakespeare for a New Generation program.
While generally considered drier than sawdust and too difficult to understand for many, this modern version jazzes up the Bard’s famous love tryst.
Post WWII era finds the Montagues as Caucasian and the Caputlets as an African-American family in a racially charged atmosphere; as tough a hatred as the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story, the well-known musical also based on R&J.
The cityscape set was complete with lights strung about the building-top patios. Costumes consisted of exceptional replicas of the styles in the years after the war.
Shakespeare-veteran Karen Aldridge as Nurse to Claire Aubin Fort’s Juliet rang strong and true as a woman who has been more of a major role in the raising of the young girl than the mother, Lady Capulet, portrayed by Cynthia Kaye McWilliams. Seasoned Aldridge brings an authenticity to the role which was absolutely heart-wrenching during the interaction between her and Juliet’s believed-dead body. The dialogue and emotional bond between Fort and Aldridge throughout the play was the most powerful interpersonal connection.
Fort’s delightful romp as Juliet was made all the more impressive when contrasted by her reversal into a heartbroken and desperate teen in the angst of a forbidden love. The emotional rollercoaster effect was dead-on (no pun intended) for teens unable to effectively fight against injustices brought upon them by the more powerful authorities of their parents, peers and society.
Keeping the dialogue true to the original works should temper any dismay felt by true die-hard Shakespearean fans who dislike the modernization of R&J. However, if you enjoy different interpretations of the centuries-old story, do not let the language throw you off. The high quality acting helps interpret any meaning you might otherwise miss.
Bottom Line: This style of blending the old language with the modern setting is an excellent way to introduce Shakespeare to the uninitiated or personally discover a new take on an old theme.
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This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis, and the West Indianapolis Community News.