A Love Story Reimagined


Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer VIOLET SPRAGUE and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member KYLE GERSTEL

Romeo Juliet Press FULL 7 Large

Romeo and Juliet is the classic tragedy of star-crossed lovers who are famously doomed from the start. This version, produced by the Seattle Shakespeare Company, consists of 2.5 hours immersing the audience in beautiful language and guiding us through a complete rollercoaster of emotions.

Taking my seat in the audience at the Center Theatre, the sense of intimacy struck me immediately in the small, dimly lit space. This was heightened by the fact that the stage was on the floor, with the actors on the same level as the audience, blurring the line between performer and spectator. As the theatrical smoke wafted over us, anticipation hung in the air. Everyone sensed that something momentous was bound to happen; we just didn’t know what.

I have to say, I was a little hesitant when I read the director’s note in my program, stating that the play would be set in current times, with a modernized setting and contemporary costumes. Would the Shakespearean words seem awkward and strained if they came from teens dressed from the 21st century? Would the famed love story be edited and suppressed to fit into stereotypes of a high school romance? Would this change draw away from the magic and emotion that I had hoped?

I was, in fact, wrong.

Though the elaborate speech and dramatic story contrasted with the contemporary clothes, set, and pop music played in between scenes, the performances tied it all together. All 10 of the actors I saw, one of which was a full-cast understudy, delivered exceptional performances that cast a complete spell over the audience. They delivered witty back-and-forths, touching heart-to-hearts, thrilling fight scenes, and introspective monologues, lifting us from reality and submerging audiences into the world of the streets of Verona. The audience became emotionally invested in all of the characters as we celebrated their joys, empathized with their struggles, and mourned their deaths, all of which were incredibly well performed. They followed the original script almost exactly, but the language of the characters that would normally seem awkward was conveyed through the actor’s actions too, making it seem natural and more relatable. Through their actions and expressions, they delivered an interpretation of the words that really felt like these were teenagers speaking. A few actors in particular that stood out to me were Alegra Batara, portraying the sweet, innocent Juliet, Morgan Gwilym Tso, playing the passionate, lovestruck Romeo, and Sarah Harlett, playing Juliet’s hilarious, caring nurse.

In addition, the fact that the set, costumes, and sound are modernized means the audience is able to make connections and see parts of themselves in the characters, which makes the show considerably more relatable. And because it looks more like our world today, it made it so I couldn’t help but connect parts of the story to our own world today. Of course, we don’t have family feuds that lead to bloodshed that destroys entire cities, but we do have war, abuse of guns, casual street violence, gender roles, and societal standards around what a conventional relationship looks like.

Courtesy of Giao Nguyen

The silent hero may have been the set. It consisted of a few simple wooden structures that, at the beginning of the play, were arranged to resemble a wooden playground structure. In the director's note, it mentions that the playground was incorporated to represent an equilibrium between childhood and adulthood, and I couldn’t agree more. However, the set didn’t stay as a playground for long. Rather than run crew, the characters themselves frequently rearranged the versatile pieces into different formations, creating a bedroom, a garden, a party, or, in the final scene, Juliet’s tomb. The playground, perhaps representing the innocence of youth and falling in love, gets twisted and transformed into a tomb by the hatred of two families gone too far.

Though Romeo and Juliet is a show that has been performed, adapted, and reimagined many, many times over, the Seattle Shakespeare Company delivered its own take with profound performances, innovative staging, and a unique perspective on the themes. It infused the classic tale with passion, authenticity, and relevance to our world today, capturing my heart and those of many others too.

Lead Photo Credit: Courtesy of Giao Nguyen

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 5 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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