Rethinking Romeo and Juliet as a same sex love affair at Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA

Forbidden: in left image, Alex Mills and Jefferson Farber, and in right photo: Jefferson Farber, Alex Mills, Joel David Santner and Rex Daugherty.

Forbidden: in left image, Alex Mills and Jefferson Farber, and in right photo: Jefferson Farber, Alex Mills, Joel David Santner and Rex Daugherty.

The last time I sat through Romeo and Juliet it was difficult to imagine families getting so worked up over two kids falling in love. Of course the actors weren’t 13 (Juliet’s age – the Nurse tells us so) which might have made some sense, but they never cast the star crossed lovers at their real ages. And while back in Shakespeare’s time families did indeed go to war with each other – as a sort of familial sharks and jets gang rivalry – we just don’t do that anymore.

As great as it is, the play loses much of its gritty underpinnings when it is staged today. There is a real need to restore the tension that is so essential to its full appreciation. You have to make the audience feel the true loathing and anger that underlies Shakespeare’s classic tale of forbidden love. Without the passion, it is just a scholarly exercise in great literature of the past.

So playwright and production director Joe Calarco rethought the story as Shakespeare’s R & J and placed it in a Catholic boy’s school so he could use the underlying homophobia in place of the families feuding. It startles one into really grasping the hatred Romeo and Juliet confronted.

Of course I have hoped that a Berkshire theatre company would be brave enough to undertake this novel approach to the tale. Last summer the film Private Romeo, which placed the lovers in a military setting, was released, and is now available on DVD. (Click for My Review and Interview with Matt Doyle who played Juliet)

Shocking? Yes, it restores the intense anger and hostility to the love affair between Romeo and Juliet by making it - once again - the story of forbidden love.

Shocking? Yes, it restores the intense anger and hostility to the love affair between Romeo and Juliet by making it – once again – the story of forbidden love.

The OTHER Signature Theatre is in Arlington, VA

The Signature Theatre in Arlington Virginia (not to be confused with the NYC company) presents Shakespeare’s R&J, which takes this musty old classic and gives it vibrant new life. Joe Calarco’s passionate new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet places the iconic story of youthful passion and feuding families in the hands of four boys in a Catholic school, where the play has been banned. Tired of their daily routine, they sneak away to take turns reading a copy of the forbidden text. As they become swept up in the story, they begin to change themselves as the play teaches them powerful lessons about life, love and social pressure. Presented in an intimate “in-the-round” style, with just the actors and the dialogue and no costume changes, props or sets, Shakespeare’s R&J rips away your preconceptions of this much-produced tragedy and presents it in a modern and emotionally resonant new form.

Acting out the play is an act of insolence. But Calarco also teases out conflicted feelings toward homosexuality and authority.

I have seen Signature’s superb productions and they never fail to delight and uplift. (Read my review of Sunset Boulevard)

Discount Tickets, too

Yes, we have access to discounted tickets for many performances of this run, that is if you act quickly. Click me Just sign in with your email and the savings are yours.

For more information, and to buy tickets for all performances visit the Signature Theatre website.

 

The Cast

    Rex Daugherty

    Rex Daugherty

  • Rex Daugherty (Student 4) OFF-BROADWAY: Disco Pigs. DC AREA: Shakespeare Theatre Company: HamletLove’s Labor’s Lost; The Kennedy Center: Unleashed!(u/s); Folger Theatre: The Taming of the Shrew; Solas Nua: Disco Pigs (Helen Hayes nomination), Johnny Meister & the Stitch; Forum Theatre: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Helen Hayes nomination). REGIONAL: Reduxion Theatre: Richard III; Totem Pole Playhouse: Almost, MaineSuite SurrenderIt Could Be Any One of Us; Wayside Theater: OthelloThe Buddy Holly Story.
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    Jefferson Farber

    Jefferson Farber

  • Jefferson Farber (Student 2) DC AREA: Shakespeare Theatre Company: All’s Well that Ends Well; Constellation Theatre Company: Metamorphoses; Synetic Theatre: Genesis Reboot; Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage/Horizons Theatre: Vanishing Point. NEW YORK: LIU: Madame de Sade; Dramatist’s Guild: LavenderShorethree seasons with the Colorado Festival of World Theatre. EDUCATION: Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at the George Washington University, MFA. Millikin University, BFA.
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    Alex Mills

    Alex Mills

  • Alex Mills (Student 1) DC AREA: Synetic Theatre: Jekyll and Hyde, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Don Quixote, The Master and Margarita, King Arthur, Othello (2011 Helen Hayes Award), Antony and Cleopatra, Dracula, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2010 Helen Hayes Award), Dante, Host and Guest; Studio Theatre: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
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    David Santner

    Joel David Santner

  • Joel David Santner (Student 3) DC AREA: Faction of Fools: Commedia Christmas Carol, Tales of Marriage and Mozzarella; Taffety Punk : The Rape of Lucrece – RemixedHamlet – The Bad Ass Quartosuicide.chat.roomThe GolemOwl MoonTiny Alice, Two Noble Kinsmen Bootleg, Burn Your Bookes, Troilus & Cressida Bootleg; Folger Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing; Shakespeare Theatre: Dog in the Manger; Kennedy Center: Don GiovanniShear Madness. REGIONAL: Stage One: Come Sing; Jimmy Jo; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayHansel & Gretel; Riverrun: Burn This, True West. FILM: Bare Knuckle, Super 8. EDUCATION: The Academy for Classical Acting at the George Washington University, MFA. UPCOMING: Constellation Theatre Co: Gilgamesh.
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Creative Team

  • Joe Calarco (Adaptor/Director) SIGNATURE: Walter Cronkite is Dead. (writer/director), Assassins (Helen Hayes Award), Urinetown (Helen Hayes Award), Sideshow(Helen Hayes Award), Nijinsky’s Last Dance (Helen Hayes Award), NestThe Boy Detective Fails, writer of eight Signature in the Schools plays. OFF-BROADWAY: Playwrights Horizons: The Burnt Part Boys, Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky; Primary Stages: In Transit (Drama Desk Award nomination), Boy; Second Stage:in the absence of spring (writer/director); The Transport Group: Bury The Dead, The Audience (contributing book writer), Shakespeare’s R&J (adaptor/director, Lucille Lortel Award). NATIONAL TOUR: Ring of Fire. REGIONAL: The Old Globe: LincolnesqueThe Glass Menagerie; Barrington Stage Company: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (book writer/director), The Memory Show; 11th Hour Theatre Company: Ordinary Days (Barrymore Award)Philadelphia Theatre Co.: The Light in the Piazza (Barrymore Award), The Last Five Years, ElegiesM. Butterfly. Executive Board SDC. Associate Artistic Director Breaking Bread Theatre breakingbreadtheatre.com.  joecalarco.blogspot.com

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