“Romeo and Juliet”

Highly Recommended ****


Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of “Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet” was charming, engaging and oh, so sad. I’m not embarrassed to say that at the end I had tears in my eyes. With Shakespeare’s drama about teen angst, murder and mayhem still required reading in most high schools, I knew there would be school groups in the audience, but I was happy to see groups of young people as well as families in the audience. I was even more happy to see those young people stand up and cheer at the end of the play, too! 4 Spotlights

For “Romeo and Juliet” a smallish wall with a balcony stands at the rear of the set CST built for “Love’s Labor’s Lost” (which runs through March 26th). That set is dominated by a tall, tall tree which soars up through all four floors of the Courtyard Theatre, almost to the ceiling. That tree is so realistic a bird has taken up residence. The kids in the audience were excited to see that bird flying around the theater, but I’m pretty sure the folks at CST are less than thrilled

As the story opens, the young men of Verona are out and about – probably looking for something to do. As luck would have it, as they’re hanging out, someone crosses the invisible line between Montagues and Capulets, and the fighting starts. Without knowing how the feud started, the younger generation perpetuates the hatred with frequently crossed swords.

Looking for some fun, Benvolio (Andrea San Miguel) and his cousin Romeo (Nate Santana), both Montagues, sneak into a Capulet party, where Romeo sees Juliet (Emma Ladji) across the dance floor – and it’s love at first sight. As they join in the dancing – striking semi-traditional style to modern, edgy music – their infatuation grows. Of course, Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt (Sam Pearson), discovering the Montague infiltration, is infuriated.

After the famous balcony scene in which Romeo and Juliet pledge their love, they plan to marry. Aided by the Nurse (Karen Janes Woditsch) and Friar Lawrence (Demetrios Troy), they do marry in secret and spend their wedding night together. SSRomeo&Juliet-PR

When they meet in the town, Benvolio and Tybalt pull their swords for a fight. Almost accidentally, Tybalt kills Benvolio, then an enraged Romeo kills Tybalt. Juliet’s mother (Lily Mojekwu) demands Romeo’s life, but the Prince SSRomeo&Juliet-swords(Elizabeth Laidlaw) banishes him instead, setting the tragedy of the young lovers in motion.

The sad thing is that if left alone, Romeo and Juliet’s crush would have eventually run its course. Adult opposition just caused them to dig in their heels, turning young love and teen angst into an eerie nightmare.

SSRomeo&Juliet-theBallThe kids in the audience had some great question for the cast in the Q and A after the show. They asked about the cross-gender casting, rehearsal time for the sword fights, how long it took to put the play together, why the word ‘banished’ is pronounced banish-ed and more.

“Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet” runs through March 25th in the Courtyard Theatre at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier. Running time is 90 minutes, no intermission.

Performances are Saturday mornings at 11:00 am.

Tickets range from $22-$34.

Patrons receive a 40% discount in Navy Pier’s parking garages.

FYI (312) 595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com/ssromeojuliet.