Sunday, September 30, 2007

Romeo and Juliet - 2007 Style

WOW! I went to an extremely powerful production of Romeo and Juliet yesterday afternoon at the Florida Repertory Theatre in downtown Ft. Myers. I've had season tickets to this theatre for many years now and cannot remember a time when I was disappointed with a production, so I was surprised at the lukewarm review that Drew Sterwald wrote for our local newspaper. I normally agree with him on just about everything. Then, my friend and loyal reader Maryellen, met me at a fundraiser for the new library Foundation Board where we ran into several co-workers who had seen the modern-day Romeo and were badly shaken by it.

Now I'm wondering what rock these people have been living under for the past 20 years. After all, this play was adapted and performed by the award winning Classical Theatre of Harlem whose mission, God bless them, is "returning the classics to the stages of Harlem, nurturing new, young, and culturally diverse audiences, and to producing theatre that truly reflects the diversity of ideas and racial tapestry of America." I can't tell you how fantastic it felt to sit in this gorgeous old theatre, usually peopled only with wealthy, retired senior citizens ( yes, you might wonder how I got in!) and see a racially mixed audience with an age range from 12 to 80. I subconsciously thanked my parents once again for exposing us to live theatre at an early age - they were amateur thespians themselves - and I wondered how these kids would remember yesterday's experience in the years to come.

I loved several things about this production, including the fact that there was no intermission to ruin the emotional buildup the actors worked so hard at creating, and that they adhered to Shakespeare's glorious original language and timeless storyline. The action takes place in contemporary Harlem so the rap music, suggestive dancing and butt-revealing baggy pants reflect that. (nothing you wouldn't see on MTV should you choose to watch) Since the Bard of Avon was such a bawdy guy with a clever penchant for sexual innuendo, the modern setting really worked for me and certainly got the students' attention. The choreography was exquisite, especially in the fight scenes which involved guns rather than swords.

If I could only take one book into exile on a deserted island I've always known it would be TheComplete Works of Shakespeare. It's a marvel to me how he was able to write about the universal human condition, the seven deadly sins if you will, with such compassion and humor. The message of Romeo and Juliet has been reprised on stage and screen innumerable times over the years, most notably in the Broadway musical West Side Story. It is as apt in 2007 as it has always been. Like the Capulets and the Montagues, we foolish humans seem to continue to find reasons to hate each other, be it race, religion, or culture, when it would be so much simpler to recognize our common humanity. Like Romeo and Juliet our children and grandchildren are paying the price.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

The best blog I have read anywhere so far. Keep'em comin'!