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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Review: Recreating ‘Romeo and Juliet’

    Courtesy+of+Tim+Fuller+%2F+Arizona+Theatre+CompanyRichard+Baird%2C+Paul+David+Story%2C+Chelsea+Kurtz+and+Kyle+Sorrell+in+Arizona+Theatre+Companys+Romeo+and+Juliet.+The+1960s-inspired+adaptation+will+run+through+March+21+in+Tucson.

    Courtesy of Tim Fuller / Arizona Theatre Company

    Richard Baird, Paul David Story, Chelsea Kurtz and Kyle Sorrell in Arizona Theatre Company’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The 1960s-inspired adaptation will run through March 21 in Tucson.

    The tale of these two star-crossed lovers is so globally well-known, expectations run high and are rarely matched as professional productions tend to slip into the mediocrity of a high school production. The Arizona Theatre Company’s “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Kirsten Brandt, doesn’t suffer this fate.

    The two titular characters are often portrayed on stage by 20-somethings as whiny, petulant and brimming with sacrificial love. This quick diametric shift is usually when the true age of the actors are revealed, shattering the illusion.

    Chelsea Kurtz and Paul David Story portray their characters with believable chemistry, the awkwardness of first love and youthful inexperience, establishing a refreshing perspective on Shakespeare’s 400-year-old text.

    The infamous balcony scene is made delightfully adorable, because the dialogue is delivered without the soulful exchanges of mature lovers. Rather, it conjures memories of the trepidation in voice and demeanor when confessing feelings to a crush.

    The play takes place in 1960s Verona, Italy, when ideas of gender and familial roles shifted between generations, and it plays well in the traditional Capulet family storyline, as Juliet’s father, Capulet (Kevin Black), arranges her marriage to Paris (Kyle Sorrell).

    Black’s Capulet isn’t ready to lose his hierarchal status and is an intimidating presence. Capulet’s undercurrent of fury bubbling beneath each scene signals he is not a man to undermine.

    Black, a UA theater professor, shares the stage with nine other UA theater students working alongside Richard Baird, a modern master of Shakespearean acting. This is Baird’s 49th Shakespeare production, and his transitions from the sickly Montague, the robust Mercutio and the hippie-dippie herbal enthusiast Friar Laurence are remarkable to behold.

    Friar Laurence’s knowledge of herbs and botany is put to comedic use for a small moment in private to take a little toke of potent grass. The Friar is equally as enjoyable to watch as Baird’s Mercutio, who is full of humor and well-dressed swagger with a gravitas voice so hypnotizing, it is a wonder Juliet doesn’t lust for him.

    His uncanny ability to make lines such as, “The ship, sir, the slip; can you not conceive?” roll off his tongue effortlessly with inflections clarify Shakespeare’s meaning and demonstrate his profound insight on archaic Elizabethan language.

    Juliet’s Nurse (Leslie Law) spins her dialogue with randy enthusiasm and sharp wit, casting aside any preconceptions that the Nurse ought to be matronly and prudent. She is stylish and joyous, balancing her sauciness through her tender bond with Juliet.

    The actors took calculated risks in the interpretation of their characters that thoroughly paid off, and the scenic design certainly joined in the experiment.

    The set consists of many rear projection screens that project various crisp images, such as forests, neighborhoods, and — in the case of Juliet’s bedroom — period frescoes overlapped with a cinema poster of “La Dolce Vita” and James Dean.

    Put to impressive use by scenic, lighting and projections designer David Lee Cuthbert, the screens added dramatic flair during the fight between Romeo and Tybalt. After Romeo stabs Tybalt and whips the knife out backwards, the screen splatters with a startling streak of blood.

    The entire production was well-executed; it took every tired element seen in other productions and added a special twist.

    Mopeds, visual effects and the talented ensemble doubling as onstage musicians set this show apart from all other theatrical attempts of “Romeo and Juliet.”

    If marveling at this phenomenal interpretation is a sin, then, in the words of Romeo, you just might find yourself saying, “Give me my sin again.”

    “Romeo and Juliet” will run at the Arizona Theatre Company through March 21.

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    Follow Anna Mae Ludlum on Twitter.

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