Romeo and Juliet: A Fresh New Look at Love

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Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? Well, it seems like this classic romance story of forbidden love now has an urban twist. Artistic Director Barbara Gaines boldly takes a chance with rearranging this Shakespearean play and does an exceptional job. Gaines transformed the storyline as a metaphor surrounding the relationship between Romeo and Juliet. She not only wanted the audience to see the story from a new perspective but how the tragedy affected the lives around the main characters.   

This tragic tale by William Shakespeare over 400 years ago, about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families, had a radical makeover, and Gaines's narrative is excellent. Updated are the people, time, and place, but the old-English remains, and the actors dazzle the audience with every word.   

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 Two families, the Capulets and the Montagues, are at war. A futuristic generational hatred stirred up by ancient grudges erupts into violence that strengthens the victor and angers the pride of the defeated. However, love is in the air in the city of Verona in the year 2020, and the immature Romeo, who once grieved of lost love, finds himself once again proclaiming his undying love; this time to Juliet.

 You can see the rich diversity of the cast; however, as you continuously watch the play, you become fixated more with the character than the difference of their color, proving the great performances transcends the mind to enjoy what they see from within.  

cst_romeojuliet_05_lizlaurenThe tragic love story that could have taken place anywhere in time with an unforgettable cast of talent made this version forever embedded in our memories surrounding the two lovebirds and their families, the Capulet and Montague saga.   

The doomed romance of the two love-stricken teenagers in this spectacular retelling of Romeo and Juliet starred Edgar Miguel Sanchez as one of the lead characters Romeo and Brittany Bellizeare as Juliet as the other. The chemistry between the two of them in this classic play was updated and compelling. 

Edgar's portrayal of the sensitive, impulsive, and immature Romeo was spot on in his idealistic world, and Brittany, as the young, innocent headstrong teenager, was very intense and moving as her feelings for Romeo unfolded throughout the production. 

75456923_10157671292886322_7700476251164639232_n-1Julian Parker, as Paris, the one promised to Juliet's hand in marriage and preferred by the Capulet, was very presumptuous and played out splendidly as the suitor in waiting. There was a scene where although the play is set in the Italian Renaissance era in language only; however when Paris clicked his car remote, it brought upon foreseen laughter. 

Betsy Aidem, as the bawdy, overly talkative Nurse, and Danielle Davis's role as Capulet servant Petra was superb and funny with great comedic timing. Lastly, Cage Sebastian Pierre, as Benvolio, Romeo's friend, and the peacemaker was engaging throughout the violent brawls of 'ancient grudges' between the feud of the two families. 

Gaines, who stated in an interview, "There is nothing romantic about these deaths," wanted her rendition of Romeo and Juliet to display the emotional rage for violence and hatred within the families. She hopes that her message of love conquers all would penetrate the humanity within us by shifting people's perspective through art-making.

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Her passion for life and an advocate for anti-violence, Gaines does a reverse "Back To The Future" by advancing the storyline to the year 2020, feeding her need to give the audience a belief that these deaths never occurred or could be prevented with a little love and understanding. I believe she was successful. Romeo and Juliet is a fresh, fun, and a superlative new look at a classic story.    

Let's Play Highly Recommends Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. 

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Barbara Gaines

Choreography by Steph Paul

Runs Through December 22, 2019

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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