Review: Theater’s performance of Romeo and Juliet

Shianne Galasso as Juliet and Collin Brown as Romeo in a dress rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet

Madeline Smyser

Shianne Galasso as Juliet and Collin Brown as Romeo in a dress rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet

Ashley Chase, Editor in Chief

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The theater program showcased a kabuki style Romeo and Juliet this past weekend, where they performed the classical Shakespeare play with Japanese thematic elements such as katana and decorative fans. This being the first time the theater program has ever performed in the kabuki style, I’d have to say I was pretty impressed.

Performing Shakespeare in the first place is a pretty challenging feat for a high school program. The play Romeo and Juliet has a famous reputation and therefore people expect a certain standard when it’s performed- but the actors went above and beyond expectations. Romeo (played by Collin Brown and Jonathan Howard) was portrayed masterfully, with his laments and love stricken elation exaggerated yet sincere. Juliet was also played skillfully (by Shianne Galasso and Grace Massamillo), emphasizing Juliet’s qualities of innocence and naive loyalty to her new found love. The language that the actors spoke was Shakespeare’s dense poetic verse in an Old English dialect, yet the audience was still able to understand the intent and emotions of the characters due to the quality acting and expressive body language provided by the actors. I especially loved the scene between Juliet and the Nurse (played by Samantha Overhauser and Grace Hedges) when Juliet, who has slighted Nurse by calling her an old hag within earshot, is trying to coax her into disclosing her message from Romeo. Based on just the Old English, the false penitence and exasperation from Juliet at the Nurse’s excessive demands might have gone over my head. But Juliet rubbing the Nurse’s back and rolling her eyes as the Nurse continues to hem and haw around her knowledge of Romeo got the message across very clearly. The vocal inflection and body language that the actors provided to scenes like these made Shakespeare’s intentions perfectly clear, even if his superfluous poetry in regular speech is too much to handle. The choreographed sword fights between the characters were also surprisingly skillful and intense. Probably the most heart pounding part of the entire play was the conflict between Romeo and Tybalt (played by Jack Smith), a battle that spanned half the stage involving jumping and dodging and yells of concentrated frustration.

The kabuki style put an original and interesting twist on the play as well. While the actual content and plot of the play remained unchanged, the setting and costumes were very different. The characters were dressed in kimonos and carried around katanas in favor of swords. At the beginning of the show, we were introduced to the love of Romeo and Juliet with a dance by the chorus using brightly colored fans and silk ribbons. The artistic element of using the movement of these props to circle around the couple and then artfully cover a stolen kiss and then frame their walk offstage was visually stunning and provided a symbolic introduction to the tale of two lovers. I especially liked the use of makeup in this show. All the actors had their faces painted white, with colored paint exaggerating and outlining different features, such as their eyes, lips, and cheeks. What made this particularly interesting was the use of blue paint for the Montagues and red for the Capulets, emphasizing the divisions between the houses even further than portrayed in the script. This color scheme also applied to the set- the part of the set where Juliet’s room was believed to be was painted red and the opposite side of the stage was painted blue. Weaving the theme of the colors representing the opposing families into the set added even more to the central theme of the play.

Overall, I was impressed with the ability and talent of the school’s theater program. The actors handled the complicated Shakespearean prose with skill and conveyed the meaning well through their acting. The choreography and kabuki elements of the play also made the show very visually appealing, something I wasn’t expecting from Romeo and Juliet. I honestly enjoyed the show and congratulate all those who participated in the presentation of Romeo and Juliet for an excellent performance.