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Romeo And Juliet At The Old Globe In Balboa Park

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 12:26 pm

If you think there’s no reason to see “Romeo and Juliet” since you already know how it ends, think again. The play, in its current adaptation, has many new ideas and many new ways of expressing the age-old themes of the play. Though you might have seen it before, it is worth seeing again.

The Old Globe Artistic Director, Barry Edelstein, who also directs the play, says it was time to stage the play again this year and when he re-read the play to prepare, “[I]t completely surprised me. I mean, everyone in the universe thinks they know what ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is about.” And while we know the high-level storyline, we sometimes forget some of the details. For instance, a major theme that Edelstein explores in the play is that of youth. It is apparent in the cast right away. The play opens with a scene of two children (both played by nine-year-olds – Veda Cienfuegos and Jaydn Washington), who represent the young Juliet and Romeo, respectively, playing happily together in a sandbox before they are pulled apart by their families. Additionally, the rest of the cast is young – many members of the cast are also current students at The Old Globe and University of San Diego theater programs. Finally, the lead actors play their roles as young people, with Juliet (played by Louisa Jacobson) practically bursting with childish impatience for news from her nurse (Candy Buckley) and Romeo (Aaron Clifton Moten) deep in an adolescent funk at the outset of the play, sitting alone in his dark room and playing songs while his cousin Benvolio (Morgan Taylor) tries desperately to get him to come out and frolick.

And if you worry the youthful cast means an unpolished production, once again, think again. Edelstein says that to do Shakespeare, one of the many skills an actor needs is to “speak classical text powerfully, clearly, and quickly.” All of the actors here do, but Romeo and Juliet stand out for their ability to keep the audience spellbound. Rather than thinking hard about what the words mean, we are swept along understanding the meaning from the context and the actors’ precise delivery. As I was leaving the theater after the show, each little group was talking about how amazing Moten was. He showed us the whimsy of youthful love, the seriousness and pain of family rivalry and hatred, and he did it all while also playing the guitar and singing about his youthful longing.

Which takes us to another interesting point about the play. The director mixes in some more contemporary music (as well as contemporary words) to further demonstrate the timelessness of this story. The collection included a very fun and engaging rendition of “Lola” along with several other tunes that many in the audience will know. And the production hearkens to other inspirations from it including “West Side Story,” when we see members of the family square off, ready to rumble and by using music from the 1968 motion picture by Franco Zefferelli.

Not to be a spoiler, but the ending doesn’t change. This isn’t the happy version - Romeo and Juliet both still die in the end. But despite knowing the ending, there is much new to see.

“Romeo and Juliet” is now showing though Sept. 15 at the Old Globe as part of its summer Shakespeare Festival. It runs for two hours and forty-five minutes, including intermission. Showtimes are at 8 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, through August. In September, showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There are also free post-show question and answer sessions with cast members on Aug. 20, 21, and 27.

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