When the cast walked out with glittery mask-like make-up around their eyes, I thought for a second I was at Midsummer. This production almost has the dreamlike fairy quality of Shakespeare's most famous comedy rather than his most famous tragedy. The six ensemble members, some of whom double as characters, often act as a chorus onstage, sometimes reciting a few lines, sometimes singing, and more often silently moving around the stage adding to the emotion of the scene. Another unique feature of this production is that under director Penelope Parsons-Lord, the cast delivers many of the lines with a pause after the first word, typically a preposition or conjunction. It's an interesting take that allows the audience to experience these familiar lines in a different way, and creates a sense of antici... pation.
|the ensemble of Romeo and Juliet
(photo courtesy of Mission Theatre)
The story unfolds on a multi-level set that looks less like buildings in a city than rocks in the wild, adding to the dreamlike fairy quality of the production. Each time a character dies, red rose petals are strewn over them; by the end of the show the stage is littered with rose petals. The cast is dressed in fairly simple costumes, including cool black sleeveless tunics with a hood/cowl for the ensemble, and tunics or dresses with a little bit of sheen for Capulets and Montagues (set design by Leazah Behrens, costume design by Penelope Parsons-Lord). Recorded music and live singing with a sort of '60s vibe is used sparingly throughout, including the songs "Do You Believe in Magic" and "You'll Be A Woman Soon."
In experiencing the divided city of Verona, I couldn't help but think of our divided nation. Today's Capulets and Montagues are Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, blue states and red states, and anything else we use to divide the world into us and them. A plague on both our houses if we can't figure out a way to work together, to choose love over hate, like these two foolish and brave children.
Romeo and Juliet continues at the Crane Theater through June 17.