Wednesday, February 20, 2013
"Shakespeare's R&J" plays at Signature Theater in Arlington VA
The Signature Theater in Arlington VA has been presenting “Shakespeare’s R&J”, a layered setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as adapted and directed by Joe Calraco.
The adaptation presents four young men attending a strict Catholic boarding school. As they wprk out relationships among themselves and rebel against authority, they act much of the Shakespeare play, each of the men playing several characters, including female ones like Juliet.
But there is no “drag”. The men start in out fully dressed on formal school suits with sweaters and full undergarments (they could almost be Mormons).
The play is a bit like the film “Private Romeo”, reviewed on my movies blog June 5, 2012.
The stagecraft is interesting. This time, Signature has converted the theater to an arena stage, with a lot of woodwork including a balcony. During one intimate scene, a tress of candles comes down. There are few props (they include a red sash), but there are interesting effects to simulate a storm. The red cape is useful for the "Queen Mab" act.
The contact among the four actors is quite physical and intimate, within certain limits.
The four parts are played by Alex Mills (Romeo), Jefferson Farber, Joel David Santner, and Rex Daugherty.
Signature’s link (running through March 3, 2013) is here.
After the show, there was an audience Q&A with the actors tonight.
Signature offers a YouTube video with similar conversations with the actors:
The music is by Gabriel Mangiante. Sometimes it sounds “Renaissance”, but in one curious passage it presents a Britten-like eclectic slow melody on solo piano.
The play has run in New York, off-off-Broadway in Hell's Kitchen in a simple theater, in Chicago, and London.
Today, “Romeo and Juliet” is often taught in ninth grade English. Teachers have to explain that Juliet would have been considered underage by today’s legal standards. When I was subbing, I sat in on one regular teacher’s introduction, but at another school (West Potomac High School, near Alexandria VA, which I have written about before on the blogs) I once had a class for two days where the student s were taking turns reading from the play. The seemed to enjoy Act II, as I remember.
Students are probably becoming aware that "Romeo and Juliet" lends itself to gay adaptations, because of the "forbidden love" theme, as well as family authoritarianism and feuds.
I have seen the Berlioz dramatic symphony "Romeo and Juliet" performed by the Minnesota Orchestra (probably around 2002).