If a production of the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet could be deemed fun, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s current version of the story of star-crossed lovers is it. This modern day take on the play is loaded with LOL moments and an edgy flare that gives it a playful yet still dramatic tone. And at a show where we all know what happens, it’s this unique presentation that makes it so appealing.
From the opening scene when servants of both the Capulets and Montagues have a confrontational encounter, a contemporary aesthetic and air is established. The characters are dressed in modern clothes with accents that sound more New York than Renaissance. And the set is a deep red with mod furnishings, giving it all a loungy club feel. This vibe is at its peak during the Capulet’s party, where Romeo and Juliet have their love-at-first-sight moment amidst a partying crowd dancing to DJ-spun techno, a fantastically choreographed scene that is mesmerizing to watch.
As for the laughs, most are elicited from Juliet’s nurse, played by Inga Ballard, who injects sass and humor into the role. And Mercutio, played by Jeffrey Carolson, delivers his lines with such a dude-like cynicism, you can’t help but chuckle when he speaks.
And speaking of characters, I have to note the main ones, played by Andrew Veenstra and Ayana Workman, were perfectly cast. His Romeo was earnest and endearing (not to mention quite handsome!), and her Juliet unjaded and exuberant. They have great chemistry and convey the drama of lovestruck teens exceptionally well.
Most of the “lighter” parts of the production occur in the first act and are balanced by darker drama in the second as the familiar plot unfolds. But the turn of the mood in no way deflects from the performance on stage, which is thoroughly captivating.
So, we all know how it ends (though on the chance you don’t, beware the spoilers in the image below), but it’s the execution of the play leading up to the finale that makes this production special. It also makes it one I’d recommend for kids, mature tweens and up. (I discussed this with the friend who joined me, and she agreed.) Of course, it would make for a great KidFree outing, too.
Romeo and Juliet is running at Lansburgh Theatre through November 6. The show is about 2.5 hours long with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $44-102.
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets from Shakespeare Theatre Company to see Romeo and Juliet, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.