On my birthday, as a very special treat, my husband and I had the privilege of seeing Romeo and Juliet courtesy of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was a particularly sweet part of my birthday because not only am I a big fan of the theater, the works of Shakespeare are my absolute favorite. Even more importantly, I have been in love with the story of Romeo and Juliet since I first read it when I was 13. I remember fantasizing as a young girl about being immersed in a love as deep as that of Romeo and Juliet. You can imagine my delight at being given the chance to watch the production with my very own Romeo.
As you may know, from my last experience at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater , the theater itself is very impressive. We arrived and were ushered into this gloriously enchanting theater, set up very similar to what a traditional Elizabethan theater would have been set up.Basically, the stage juts out into the center of the theater and there is truly not a bad seat in the intimate theater.I particularly love the lighting, upon arrival it was very warm and gave the theater a romantic glow.
The production itself was amazing. This being one of my favorite plays of Shakespeare, I have read the book several times, seen every movie variation ever made ( My personal favorite being Franco Zefferelli’s) , and seen it on the stage via television but I have never had the pleasure of seeing it live on stage. So, to say that I was excited for this opportunity is a great understatement.
I was particularly impressed by how contemporary yet timeless the play was portrayed. It opens with the Capulet’s men and Montague’s men bickering in a fight scene in the street. The two families were easily identifiable by either blue or red stitching on their clothing. It was very gritty and because of the size and shape of the theater you felt like a bystander on the street watching the feud unfold.Actually, the entire time I was watching the play, I felt like I was part of the production; an extra, if you will.The Elizabethan theater shape really is genius. I wish all theaters were set up like this.
I found it very interesting that the costumes transcended time by including clothing from just about every era of the 20th century. It was apparent but very subtle. More of a nuance than a direct appeal to your senses. I was, however, most impressed by the use of the true dialogue. Being that I am such a fan, I always expect to be let down when a classic is produced on stage, especially if it is updated for contemporary audiences. I understand why this is done, to make the production more easily relate able and understood but it has always made me feel like they were “dumbing it down” for their audience. This was NOT the case at the CST production. The wardrobe and the set were changed somewhat to be timely but the dialogue itself was true to the original Shakespeare and thanks to the superior acting skills of the cast, even a Shakespeare novice could understand what was going on and thoroughly enjoy the production.
All of the cast were superior. Obviously, I loved the characters of Romeo (John Lillico
) and Juliet ( Joy Farmer-Clary
). Juliet was absolutely beautiful and played the part with a childlike innocence and limited view of the world. Romeo was very charming and lived on the stage like your average teen aged boy; feasting on romance and living inside of his own head, oblivious to the reality surrounding him. The chemistry between the two was palpable. The two actors were very well suited for their parts. Even with the combustible chemistry, they played the parts very innocently (as it was meant to be since the characters are young teenagers not adults). It really added to the romance of the show.
Other characters of note were the Nurse (Ora Jones
) who gave the part a certain je ne sais quoi that really made her endearing to the audience. She was boisterous, over the top, and vivacious. I loved watching her reactions to the goings on of the other characters. Another fabulous addition to the cast was Benvolio ( Steve Haggard) who made the character very likable and funny. He added a lightheartedness to the play that was definitely needed to balance out the tragedy. But my favorite character was, as it has always been, Mercutio (Ariel Shafir). Mr. Shafir played Mercutio perfectly. He was funny, honest, over the top, loud, sarcastic, and honorable. Mercutio was portrayed as the friend that everybody wants to have in their life. The quick wit of the dialogue coupled with the physical acting of the character provided much entertainment. All of the cast were exceptionally well suited for their parts. Gale Edwards did a fantastic job directing this production.
It is so seldom that we get a night out away from the children and this was also my birthday so I was hanging the moon on this production. I am happy to say it did not disappoint. I would recommend this production to any friend of mine and I highly suggest it for date night for any couple that wants an excuse to snuggle into your own Romeo. The story is timeless, the cast superior, the theater beautiful, and romance is definitely in the air. The Big Guy and I left the building holding hands and the production really did start my birthday celebration of with a bang!
Romeo and Juliet runs September 15, 2010 thru to November 21, 2010,with multiple performance times available. There are also many great activities and attractions going on at Navy Pier this fall so come for the show and make a day or night of it on the Pier! If you live in the Chicago land, Northwest Indiana area, I would highly recommend making this performance a date night destination while you still have the opportunity. For more information click the link below
Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to see Romeo and Juliet by The Chicago Shakespeare Theater in order to view the performance and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were NOT influenced by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater..