CHARLOTTE-How can one stage a tale seemingly as old as time, but yet breathe brand new life into it? That is the question. The talent in the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Theater Department has answered that question in a BIG way with their rendition of Romeo and Juliet, or as they are calling it Romeo.Juliet.
The dynamic duo of director and Theater Department Chair James Vesce and the production’s Dramaturge Professor A.J. Hartley have incorporated the use of present day technology not just in the running of the show, but actually using it IN the show on stage. During the prolog there is a dance that is choreographed to techno music with high above the performers on a huge screen the video of a man who serves as the chorus reciting the prolog, and in step with his reciting, the words of the prolog are projected and composed to the music of the dance taking place on stage. After the dance, the audience is witness to a lovesick Romeo (Sammy Hajmamoud) staring at his ipad pining over the Facebook page (which is projected on the screen above the stage) of his first romantic interest, the fair Rosaline. While in his infatuated state, he and his cousin Benvolio (Amanda Nifong) have a chat with one another via their cell phones about her (?)/his (?) cousin’s affection for Rosaline.
Not only does this production of the tale of the two star-cross’d lovers weave the technologies of Facebook and Skype (vehicles used as a way for the characters to keep in contact with each other, along with the cell phones) into the story, it also face-punches down gender barriers by reversing the sex of the roles of the Nurse (Robert-Anthony Artlett), Benvolio, Mercutio(Aubrey Young), and the Friar (Jill Bloede).
The futuristic (yes even more futuristic than 2013) and posh styles of costumes (created by Heidi Ohare and her staff), stark white inclined stair-steppy set design (the Apple store stairs in New York City was used as inspiration for the creation says Professor Vesce, and were designed by Professor Anita Easterling), Juliet’s (Gina Herrera) party being turned into a rave, eerie theatrical lighting (designed by Richard Moll), and the use of technological elements within the show, all help this modern interpretation of this very old love story transcend the Elizabethan-era language, which tends to turns off most people to the Shakespearean text, and some would say that is the reason they may not like Shakespeare or any tales that are not spoken in present-day English. Whether you are a Shakespeare buff or not, this interpretation definitely deserves a gigantic LIKE.
Romeo.Juliet is currently playing at Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. For show dates, times, ticket prices and directions to Robinson Hall please go to http://coaa.uncc.edu/ for this and more information.