Sunday, February 05, 2006

ART's Romeo and Juliet at the Loeb: Agro Teen Love

Caught the American Repertory Theatre's production of Romeo & Juliet Saturday night. Director Gadi Roll, and lead actors Mickey Solis and Annika Boras, eschew any attempt at historical fidelity to either the play's original setting or Elizabethan England, instead shoehorning Shakespeare's characters and dialog into a commentary on contemporary youth culture. Comparisons to recent movies are impossible to avoid, as the play evokes the anachronistic approaches of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet and Brian Helgeland's A Knight's Tale (complete with absurd Renaissance/hip-hop hybrid dance numbers), with costumes seemingly inspired by goth culture and The Matrix. Radically divergent from Luhrmann's film, though, are the against-the-grain interpretations of the starcrossed lovers and a palpable resistance to melodrama. Romeo is all brood and angst, with little hint of the romantic sentimentality that many may associate with the roll. Even more thoroughly transformed, Boras's Juliet offers a sharp contrast to Claire Danes's ultra-feminine teen princess version. She stomp-runs around the stage and mostly screams her dialog. This seems an attempt to add some "girl power" for audiences accustomed to strong feminist teen heroines like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Together they create a vision of doomed punk love that made a lot more sense in Sid and Nancy. Solis's Romeo seems completely unconvinced of his own affections, a puzzling choice given his eventual suicide. The play, though in some ways attempting to engage and affirm contemporary teen culture, ultimately reflects a reactionary vision of teens as hopelessly disaffected and insincere.


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