Laird Williamson’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, at the Angus Bowmer Theatre, satisfied my expectations of the consummate tragedy of young lovers.
The play has been reset to Verona, a town in Alta California during the late 1840s, when there was resistance and conflict between the Mexican citizens who had settled there and the U.S. military forces. That volatile period perfectly frames the family conflicts between two prominent, powerful, hidalgo houses in the town: the Capulets and the Montagues, whose members were forbidden to have any contact whatsoever with one another. Of course, this leads to the tragic turn of inexorably events that occur when a Capulet falls madly in love with a Montague.
Williamson did some master casting in this play. Juliet (Alejandra Escalante) and her Romeo (Daniel José Molina) are not only believably age appropriate with their young semblance, but are emotionally mature enough to give depth and heart to their performances. Juliet, almost 14 and Romeo close to her age, around 16 conveyed the intensity of the teenage love affair Shakespeare intended, as older actors seldom do.
The rest of the cast masters the roles and characters of the play. The slightly older actors, Mercutio (Jason Rojas) and Tybalt (Faja Al-Kaisi) bring incredible energy to their roles as they spark the catalyst to the doom. Elijah Alexander and Vilma Silva who are equally as impressive play the Capulets while Isabell Monk O'Connor is delightful as Juliet's ribald nurse and Tony DeBruno is effective as the well-meaning but forlorn Friar Laurence. Barzin Akhavan and DeLanna Studi are the elder Montagues swept along in the action.
The hidalgo cultural theme is enforced throughout the play through script and screenplay. The actors speak in Spanish accents, and have Spanish phrases slip out here and there between the iambic pentameter and blank verse.
Actors are dressed in impressions of Susan...