“Romeo and Juliet”, an all too familiar play, is in the last week of its one month run at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. Starring Aaron Clifton Moten and Louisa Jacobson, under the direction of Barry Edelstein, this interpretation of Romeo and Juliet was far from typical.
Beginning with a strong directorial decision, young Romeo and Juliet were seen playing in the tragedy’s main focal point: a sandbox. The sandbox provided an element of freshness and vitality that was carried throughout the play. This component served as a constant reminder of the youth of both Romeo and Juliet; the youth which ultimately leads to their demise.
As the play began to develop, it became clear that what made this play distinctive was the level of comfort that the actors were delivering their lines. Seeing as how old English is not everyone’s vernacular of choice, the body language and cadence at which the lines were spoken made the audience feel at ease with such strange terms.
What was most surprising was the unique musical element that was incorporated. Upon Romeo’s entrance, he sang along to “How Soon is Now?” by The Smiths. At the masquerade ball, Juliet (and ensemble) provided a rendition of “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow. The varying songs caused the viewer to question the era in which the play took place. This proved to be a query that would remain unanswered. With wardrobe choices that pulled from what seemed to be the 1940s to the 1990s, one can only assume it was symbolic of the feud that stretched for generations.
The nurse, played by Candy Buckley, and Mercutio, played by Ben Chase, provided the audience with the comic relief and constant laughter. Both sang songs of their own with such convincing vigor, one could hardly contain their enjoyment.
By the end of the show, it was evident that Edelstein had incorporated some theatrical decisions from Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie adaptation of the play. Juliet awoke just as Romeo had swallowed the poison, forcing her to watch him die. However, the children made a surprising, yet strange return at the end of the show. They laid next to their older counterparts and proceeded to play with the hair and hands of the dead until the lights went out.
The Old Globe provided us with, yet again, another beautifully performed Shakespearian play. Illustrious costumes and meticulously designed hair showed great effort. With comfortable dialogue and witty/sexual banter, one would be a “fool” not to see it in its final days. But, as enjoyable as the tragedy was, I prefer the Gnomeo and Juliet adaptation.