Saturday, September 01, 2012

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, directed by Laird Williamson

Today was a great day for theatre. I liked both plays immensely, the already mentioned Trolius and Cressida and Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Alonzo Lee Moore IV, rang like a new day after a literally dismal night (smile). Not to say, other renditions of the classic play were palsy in comparison, but in the hands of Laird Williamson and the able cast, especially Alejandra Escalante as Juliet, Capulet's daughter, Daniel Jose Molina as Romeo and Isabell Monk O'Connor, Nurse to Juliet, along with the friar, the lovers' parents, and their friends.

I thought it interesting, set in the late 1840s in the town of Verona, Alta California, that the Spanish Californios were occupied by U.S. military, a military which in this play serves as peacekeepers between the occupiers.

What a fiction, right?

Where are the original people? The Indigenous folks don't show up in the play, except via one dance and their art, such as tapestries one sees used in the Capulet home. Perhaps the black "Nurse" is California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, western Colorado and southwestern Wyoming's link to the African Diaspora's Queen Califia or early explorers its navigators, who were African? She isn't a slave.

One sees clearly how Romeo and Juliet are pawns in a game they were born into. The foolishness of their parents costs their families dearly--the lives of their only heirs or children.

I didn't remember Romeo killing two people and causing of the death of a third, his friend Mercutio (actor Jason Rojas).

I think at one point 14 year old Juliet's father is evolved both socially and intellectually regarding women and girls' rights, and am sorely let down, when patriarchy rears its ugly head which results in Juliet's demise. He asks her to consider marriage to Captain Paris, and when she considers and declines the proposal, he disowns her (what!?).

Similarly, he saves Romeo from Tybalt who wants to challenge him when he is recognizes his enemy at a party Don Capulet throws for his daughter to meet Paris. Yet a few scenes later we see him supporting his wife, Dona Capulet's thirst for blood when her cousin, Tybalt, is killed by Romeo.

Maybe it's the pacing. For some reason one is able to savor the words--really hear them with relish. I love the banter between the nurse and her Juliet and Juliet's mother. Chairs hanging on walls are taken down along with a cloth dolls, one presumes a younger Juliet once played with, as the three women sit and chat about men. Another character whose presence is light in much heavy lifting, is Peter who serves the Capulets (actor Joe Wegner). The henchman bears no evil, even though he certainly could given the fact that no one guards their tongue around him. Perhaps it is his childlike air that puts others at ease.

The wooden set made of slated boards give the feeling of a fortress, yet the boards also serve as walls in a courtyard, high walls Romeo scales to escape his drunken friends below, then finds to his delight he can see his Juliet's balcony.

Susan Tsu's costumes are lovely as are the indigenous flavors in the form of a masked dance and Romeo's visit to an Ohlone medicine woman portrayed by DeLanna Studi. Tony DeBruno as Friar Laurence plays a pivotal role in facilitating the youth's marriage and escape into exile. Romeo and Juliet is up through November 4.

I am looking forward to seeing Party People at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow and The Very Merry Wives of Winsor, Iowa, tomorrow evening. The Very Merry Wives, while not Shakespearean, is in the Elizabethan theatre, which I have not seen any plays in this trip, as all were in the other two theatres, so it should be fun. Another fun fact is that the "Nurse" in Romeo is in Very Merry too (smile). Gina Daniels, the actress who played Fannie Lou Hamer and Coretta Scott King in All the Way is in Merry Wives as well.

When in doubt, support the plays with black folks in them first (smile).

I was supposed to see Animal Crackers, but I exchanged my tickets today. Perhaps I can get back for Henry V, As You Like It, and Animal Crackers.

Friday night I saw Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella, which I'd been looking forward too. It didn't work for me. I've heard of blind casting, but OSF took it to another level when they cast this trilogy as gender blind casting--Lady Macbeth is portrayed by a man in drag. I don't know--there is a certain purity in the saga that is messed up when one can't feel the love between the husband and wife.

Of the three, the story that worked well throughout was Cinderella. Medea was just confusing--the protagonist crazy without a clue as to why. Now, I like my Medea too. I am not as much a groupie as I am with Lady Macbeth, but the girl--Medea, is crazy for a cause. The best Medea I've seen to date was The Magic Theatre's recent production, Luis Alfaro's Bruja. See


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