Sunday, August 01, 2004

Romeo and Juliet

Was there ever a more perennial theme than teens in love? The ultimate teen love story is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the second Ghost Light Theatre production, opening at the Veterans Memorial Theater on Saturday, running through August 7.

Director Dave Burmester has set his play at some nebulous time in the future, a period many years after a cataclysmic event has decimated humanity and compromised what we currently consider civilization. The Verona of this future world has developed a dual power structure. Adults derive their power, as always, from money and influence. Young people resort to violent, though rarely deadly, conflict.

It appears that at all periods of time, there are tribal conflicts and the Capulets and the Montagues -- the Hatfields and McCoys of the Shakespearean world -- are still at odds with each other.

Bridging that enmity come the star-crossed lovers. Dara Yazdani is outstanding as Romeo, impetuous and intensely soulful, who falls in love at first sight and is driven to suicide at the thought of losing his love forever. He makes Romeo as up to date as any modern film filled with teenage angst.

Likewise, Genny Moreno as Juliet is as frivolous as any 13 year old girl, full of daydreams and ready to fling herself into the arms of her Romeo.

Josh Toliver gave a superb performance as the ill-fated Mercutio. He immediately set the scene as a hormone-driven teen with all the in-jokes and double-entendres in which young men engage.

The setting, looking like a back alley somewhere, with graffiti painted on corrugated metal walls, and boxes strewn about, lead to the logical comparison to West Side Story, especially when the rival gangs engage in hand-to-hand combat with very real looking fight choreography by Chris Oca.

As leader of the rival gang, Eric Delacorte as Tybalt is particularly effective in his fight scenes. He wields a mean stick.

Zoe Garcia as Lady Capulet had the sultry demeanor of a Catherine Zeta Jones, slinking around the stage in skin-tight black leather, showing only casual concern for her daughter.

More sympathetic toward the emotional life of Juliet is her Nurse, played competently by Bethany Bishop.

Davis Wurzler is Friar Laurence, the monk who performs the wedding ceremony for the two lovers and gives Juliet a potion to simulate death. Unfortunately, Wurzler tended to rush his lines too much and many of them were unintelligible.

Lighting design by James Henderson was excellent in setting the mood for each scene or spotlighting a particular grouping. Particularly impressive was the dance sequence (with choreography by Dana Snyder), lit in red tones, with bright white for Romeo and Juliet. Some of the actors had difficulty hitting their light spot on, so that bodies were illuminated but faces hidden.

This is a production which will have broad appeal, even to those who think they don’t like Shakespeare, and there is enough action on stage that it should be fun even for grammar school children.

Burmester gets an A+ for this one.

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