Director brings modern twists

By Hayden Perkins

The lights came up, revealing the cast of “Romeo & Juliet” in the heat of combat in the School of Theatre and Dance’s main-stage production.

The Montague and Capulet children exchanged blows, their swords ringing throughout the auditorium like chimes in the wind, only to be halted by the law. Then, as has been for centuries, the two families separated, heckling each other and slinging insults in the romanticized dialogue that is instantly recognizable as William Shakespeare’s.

The story is as familiar as it is loved, and, to just as many, hated. It’s easy for actors, directors and patrons alike to be turned off to the idea of performing a Shakespeare play because it feels cliché and overdone. That, however, is quite often a mistake.

This production of “Romeo & Juliet” had absolutely no problem adapting the old tale into an enjoyable and modern statement about the nature of people.

Guest director Richard Raether sought to bridge the gap between a 2017 audience and the 1597 piece by modernizing the definitive qualities of the show. The battle scenes were accompanied by hard rock music, the costumes were a mix of leather jackets and dark pants and the sex jokes needed no translation.

A moment I found myself surprised by was the beginning of the second half. The intensity and stillness in the room as Mercutio and Tybalt argued and dueled were products of stupendous acting and vicious stage-fighting.

Aside from the hilarious toilet humor that is often overshadowed by the lines and suicides, the team on stage set out to do one thing: discuss growing up.

“[Shakespeare] wrote in such a way that shows that teenagers have anxiety … [that] everything has to happen now,” senior acting major Kris Downing, who played Romeo, said. “The message of this show is that it’s not fair.”

It’s very apparent that all of these characters are going through some form of identity crisis as they try to figure out who they are and where they fit in this world that has seemingly already decided for them.

“Romeo & Juliet” is about stupidity and pride. It’s about discovering who you are as a person and loving and learning as you do so.

The language is tedious and daunting as it’s always been, but Raether and his cast and crew have spun together a rendition of a classic story that deserves applauding.