Friday, March 10, 2017

Review of Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet. It was by William Shakespeare and directed by Marti Lyons. It is about two teenagers named Romeo (Nate Santana) and Juliet (Emma Ladji) who fall in love but their families are rivals so they have to hide their love. Then people die. It is about the teen experience, loyalty, and the dangers of prejudice. I think that this is a really great show. I absolutely loved it. I felt like it had a lot of awesome and amazing aspects. I'm not sure if I've ever cried at Romeo and Juliet before, but this one really got me.

I thought there were really great movement sequences, both dance (by Stephanie Paul) and fights (by Matt Hawkins). They made the Capulet's dance seem a little more like a teen party that you might go to (except your nurse and your mom are there!) because they used contemporary dance music and a mix of ballroom dancing and modern moves. They also had some really awesome badass fights. Like at the beginning when Benvolio (Andrea San Miguel) is trying to keep the peace between Balthazar (Cage Sebastian Pierre) and one of the Montagues (Andrew Saenz). She does it by some awesome sword fighting but then Tybalt (Sam Pearson) has to jump into the fray and it turns into this awesome four-way fight. It is so visually amazing. I also thought it was cool how in the Mercutio (Brian Grey) and Tybalt fight, Romeo and Benvolio both rush in to help Mercutio and once he actually dies (spoiler alert) Romeo kills Tybalt, but it a more violent way than I expected. I really liked that; it was really effective to see something so brutal and sad.

Even though this play is known as a tragedy it still has a lot of comedic sections. I thought that there were a lot of jokes that were relatable for me and the group of friends I went to see the show with, we were all between the ages of 12 and 14. There was a moment in the balcony scene when Juliet was calling to the Nurse (Karen Janes Woditsch) who is in the other room and she screamed "By and by I come!" in a very aggravated voice, but then she went back to talking to Romeo as sweet, perfect Juliet. I think every teen knows that situation. The balcony scene was funny overall, but also very sweet. Like one time Romeo was walking away and Juliet calls Romeo back. And he's like, "Oh it is my soul calling me back!" And then when he gets back she says, "I forgot why I called you back." And she sounds so apologetic. That is where the romantic bliss of the scene kind of retracts, but it makes it better because it seems more like a real teen relationship. Another funny part was how the Nurse always seemed to be in the market for a new beau. And she even seemed kind of interested in Romeo which was a funny recurring gag. But thankfully she backed off once Romeo and Juliet got married because it is not called Romeo and Nurse!

I think it is great that the romance in this Romeo and Juliet is less driven by attraction than it sometimes is. It is more about an emotional connection and not as much about just attraction. When they first see each other they do find each other attractive, but they start dancing with each other, which turns into talking together, which turns into a kiss. They were both being very witty talking with each other and the kiss came from him liking hanging out with her and not just because she was pretty. Romeo and Juliet in this production were like a couple everyone would want to be--except for the dying part. I liked how she got married just in the dress she was wearing. She didn't go and buy some fancy butterfly gown. She just went and got married to the person she wanted to be with and he liked her for just being her. They still speak in a very romantic way, but it doesn't make you want to vomit because the actors make the feelings seem so real.

Even though this play is mostly about the experience of the teenagers, you still get to see the adults' side of the story too. I felt like the characters that you don't always think about when you think about Romeo and Juliet really stand out in this production. Lady Capulet (Lily Mojekwu) I felt like had such a full character. Her story had a beginning, middle, and end and you could see that. It made me think that people don't pay enough attention to this character. The Prince (Elizabeth Laidlaw) is usually like the character that people go, "There was a Prince in this?" But I think she was memorable as a vessel for feminism in this show because people listened to her, even though they don't listen to any other woman in this show. Friar Lawrence (Demetrios Troy) seemed invested in helping Romeo and Juliet and seemed like a good person to talk to when you couldn't talk to your parents. He seemed like a person who had helped Romeo with his problems, like a psychiatrist. I think that it is good to show teenagers in the audience not just the side they relate to, but the rest of the story too.

People who would like this show are people who like relatable teen romance, intense fights, and partying with your nurse. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I think it is an amazing production with amazing actors. I absolutely loved it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

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