Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

I saw Greenstage's outdoor production of Romeo and Juliet last Thursday. Greenstage is one of the truer outdoor theatre companies, having no set or microphones, and I think they always use the advantages of the outdoors well. They also use the audience well, often coming on stage through the audience. You'll suddenly hear someone speaking behind you, and turn around and there will be Romeo. Plus, I was sitting in the very front row (as, knowing the stage manager, we knew the front row was actually several feet in front of where people had started sitting), and when Benvolio was telling Romeo to "examine other beauties" to forget Rosaline, I got to be the beauty they were examining.

It was a good production. They had a bunch of big greyish cloaks, which were used to great effect. For example, people in cloaks kneeling in a semicircle made Juliet's balcony, and people in cloaks managed to block the audience's view enough to get a dead Juliet off stage invisibly. I particularly liked the actors playing Romeo (who was Orsino in the Twelfth Night I saw two years ago), Juliet (Ophelia in my favourite Hamlet), Benvolio, Nurse, and Friar Laurence. I thought Lady Montague was very strange, rather melodramatic, and badly costumed, though I don't know how much of that is her fault.

The story of Romeo and Juliet has never quite managed to win me over. They're so young, and if it were modern times their romance would be of the brief high school variety. If Juliet is to marry Romeo she has to give up her family, who she loves, for this guy in a mask she met at a party who winds up killing her favourite cousin. But everybody always seems to talk about this as one of the greatest romances ever. This production, however, seemed to treat Romeo and Juliet's relationship in what I think is a much more realistic way. They showed Juliet doubting more than I'm used to seeing, and her monologue about the husband who killed her cousin vs. the cousin who would have killed her husband was well-played. Once Romeo leaves for Mantua, there was obvious conflict between Juliet's duty to her husband (despite him being a husband she hardly knows) and her duty to her parents. Maybe my memory of this part of the play is just vague, but I do think not all productions emphasize it so much. It's easy to fall before the idea of Romeo and Juliet as a simple romance, but Greenstage didn't, and they made me like the play better because of this.

Can I just say, if you're going to have all the actors running around in leggings, have them be serious opaque leggings, and not semi-transparent tights, please. It was distracting.

The show is playing through August in parks around Seattle, and I totally recommend seeing it. Maybe by the time you do they'll have got less see-through tights!

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