What do I, as a snobby Shakespearophile want to see in a production?
What do I hope others see?
What is the best way to produce something the masses will come out to?
How many jokes are too many jokes? (It’s always fewer than you think…)
The Bard Brawlers have said more than once we feel R&J is a play produced far too often, that many productions miss key points in the play, and that there are better plays dealing with love in the cannon.
That aside, Amanda Kellock‘s innovation, artistic direction, and interpretation of the play makes the current production well world a look.
Thus, the early line, “In sadness, cousin, I do love a woman,” takes on a whole different meaning, importance and, in this production, power. Thompson’s delivery off it actually gave me some shivers.
Everything about this play depends on the leads, and Thompson and Rambharose are both excellent. In past productions and films I’ve caught, Mercutio and Tybalt can steal the show, but in this production they certainly do not (more on that later). The two women are tender and scared and erratic with their affection, which is the key to Romeo and Juliet.
The two lovers are very young, very excitable, very immature and very erratic.
Remember, SPOILER ALERT, Romeo kills two people in the play, falls in and out of love with one, while in love with another, and kills herself rather than waiting a damn second to think about what she’s doing. Geez. Chill.
Thompson gets there. Her range is on display throughout and she traverses the inconstant Romeo’s emotions with tact and care.
In addition to the leads, Capulet (Mr. and Ms.) are gender swapped, as is Benvolio.
Capulet (Nadia Verrucci) is the scene stealer if there is one. When onstage, she is a presence to be reckoned with and her ability to go from funny to down right frightening is effective to be sure. When she reams out Tybalt (Patrick Jeffrey), you get that cringy, watching-someone’s-mom-ream-their-kid-out-in-public-feeling that shows who has power, and why the landscape has degraded to the point it’s at: IE, the streets are a battleground between two gangster families.
So we come to the point where a critic must be a critic. Romeo and Juliet’s Verona is a dangerous, dirty place where two groups of people have been street brawling (bing) for some time. Benvolio, Romeo, Tybalt, Mercutio and that rest have been duking it out on the streets for so long that the prince declares a death sentence if it happens again.
“To wield old partisans in hands as old,
Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time, all the rest depart away,”
– Prince, I, i
In Repercussion’s production, Tybalt and Mercutio (Adam Capriolo) never seem that fierce. Mercutio in particular goes for far too many laughs. His character is, no doubt, funny and lusty, but he’s also got some venom in him that it’s hard to see in this production. He did get a lot of laughs at the production I was at, but could have had some gasps and shivers too, which is a shame. One less joke and perhaps one more bee sting were in order.
Oh, and on the topic of laughs, audiences need to stop waiting to laugh and laughing at things that aren’t funny! Ugh, using fabric as blood is not funny! It’s tragic if you let it be, and allow some discomfort. (Rant over)
Two last things: the set and costumes are perfect for this play. Sophie el Assaad’s colour and style palette is sharp and perfect for the production, and the set is slick without being over-designed. Top marks.
The play runs to August 8 in and around Montreal, and is donation-based. Check it out. Bring a blanket or chair and something in case it gets cold (it did on Friday for sure).
Oh, and wear this jacket if you have it because it rules:
It was a beautiful July evening and we enjoyed wine from the Vibrant Vine which made it even better. The Villa is set in the hills above Kelowna and the view is amazing as well as the magnificent gardens.
One of the best-known love stories ever written (is it a love story though?), this play has been translated into dozens of languages and has inspired art, song, ballet, opera and film. The challenge in presenting Romeo & Juliet is to breathe new life, freshness and relevance into the production.
“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite.
Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.”
– Friar Lawrence, II,vi
Neal Facey, long time theatre instructor, director and producer has done just that. In his own words, “This production is set in a fictional modern Verona where the Montagues and Capulets are the heads of rival fashion houses. The vibrant looks of haute couture thinly mask the corporate covert wars and rivalry of the fashion world.”
Matt Brown as Romeo brings a strong brooding presence to the character and Sarah Goddard as Juliet brings passion and life to every scene she is in.
“Ah me! How sweet is love itself possessed
When but love’s shadows are so rich in joy!”
– Romeo, V,i
Romeo’s cousin Benvolio (Justin Gaudio) and his loyal friend Mercutio (Alyosha Pushak) display their true devotion to him and also add some comic relief with Mercutio’s pink socks and loud outbursts of devotion.
Fred Way, formerly of MBSS teaching fame, and Bard Brawl co-captain Daniel J. Rowe’s high school drama teacher, was the set designer.
William Shakespeare would have loved this production of Romeo & Juliet, and the story of love, grief and loss, hatred and violence, loyalty and counsel are as fresh today as they were over 400 years ago.
*EDITOR’S NOTE FROM DANIEL: Right on Mr. Way. Right on. Mr. Way was obsessed with Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, and did a production in tribute of it once. Funny story. Facey didn’t watch it telling me, “film is film and theatre is theatre.” Classic drama teacher line.
As Daniel pointed out, we’re reading the hella slick “Backstage Edition,” a hardcover edition of all twelve issues of Kill Shakespeare. If you can swing it, I highly recommend picking it up here. May as well pick up the other volumes while you’re at it. And while you’re shopping, why not load up on some Kill Shakespeare t-shirts.
On an unrelated note, Christmas is coming up in a few weeks…
“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.”
– Hamlet, III.i
Hamlet’s still confused about what’s going on in issue 5. He’s still convinced that Richard III is a good guy and that Juliet, Othello and the rebels are disruptive elements of the benign king’s just rule. Also, Iago just saved Hamlet’s life so he’s still pretty convinced that Iago’s on his side. Juliet and Othello aren’t buying any of it though. And Othello’s pretty mad, bro.
It’s hard to take Hamlet and Falstaff seriously of course as they’re still walking around in dresses after their getaway in the last issue but what’s Shakespeare without cross-dressing?
Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth and Richard are negotiating. He wants the use of her Black Guard troops but she’s not budging: she’s planning to keep them stationed in her lands. She’s smokin’ hot but Radcliff’s right – she’s trouble for sure.
Hamlet tries to run off in the middle of the night with Iago but Juliet spots him and tells him he’s got to go on alone if he wants to leave. So off he goes and wanders into a walking nightmare. Hamlet sees his father’s image go all zombie undead, pulling at his skin and growing snakes out of his flesh.
That drives him a little nuts but he comes to his senses as he wanders right unto a scene of Don John and Richard’s conies beating up some townsfolk to find out where Hamlet’s hiding. Don John even cuts out Shallow’s tongue and, like a wuss, Hamlet hides in the bushes until they pass.
When Juliet and company arrive in Shrewsbury, they are told not to stick around seeing as the fear of Richard’s men might make someone rat them out. Seems like some good advice.
Finally, Hamlet eventually falls and knocks himself out in the woods trying to run away from Don John and his troops. He’s found by Lysander, Demetrius and Adriana who are on their way to Shrewsbury. Along the way, they drop some truth about their beneficent King Richard.
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.”
– Julius Caesar, III.ii
Turns out that crazy walking nightmare wasn’t just some bad food but was some sort of spell cast by Lady Macbeth and the weird sisters. (You know, the ones who tell Macbeth he’s be king one day but that Banquo’s kids will take over from him.) In this version, it seems like Lady M’s tapping into their juju to mess with Hamlet (and Skype with Iago, eventually).
In Shrewsbury, Iago’s messing with Othello’s mind by playing nice but “accidentally” saying stuff to set him off. And Juliet and Falstaff find Hamlet sleeping in some stables and guilt him into working the fields to pay for his free lunch.
While they work, Adriana drops some hints to Hamlet who’s totally clueless (Hey dude! Wake up! She wants to “care for thy coat!,” know what I’m saying?) But Hamlet’s too busy being emo Hamlet on account of his being a wuss earlier and not fighting Don John to save the peasant’s tongue.
Ooops! Guess that was a little loud. Seems like Don John and co. hear that, too and now they’ve got the place surrounded and have started beating up on folks!
This time, Hamlet’s ready to throw down though and he clubs a guard in the head. A rumble breaks out and Juliet brains Don John. Even Iago gets in on the action and after they win the fight, beer and food for all.
Oh, and it turns out that Iago’s been serving Lady Macbeth this whole time because he, too, has been hypnotised by her gratuitously giant comic book boobs. (I mean just like Richard, not me. I don’t get hypnotised by cartoon boobs.)
Characters added: no one, but Don John is dead, which is a nice bonus!
“[…]I’ll have grounds
More relative than this: the play ‘s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”
– Hamlet, II.ii
So Iago’s been using his own magic to Skype with Lady Macbeth who is totally willing to keep using the promise of her body to get stupid men to do stupid things. This isn’t like real life at all, guys.
It’s Twelfth Night in Shrewsbury (well, everywhere else in England too, I would imagine) and Juliet and company are convinced to stick around for a play staged by Feste and Sir Toby Belch. Or just plain Belch here.
Hamlet finally gets a clue and dances with Adriana but the dance is interrupted by the start of the play. Feste’s asking for an audience member to join them on stage.
Feste: “No, not you. No… Ah, Hamlet. Shadow King. You’ll do. Get your ass up here! Here’s a costume.”
Hamlet” What the hell am I supposed to do?”
Feste: “Oh, it’s just an old play called the Murder of King Hamlet. Errr, I mean,Gonzago. The murder of Gonzago. You get to be the murderer. Fun, right?”
Hamelt: “GAHHHHHHHH!” (Exit stage right, running and screaming)
Feste: “Was it something I said?”
Of course, the Murder of Gonzago mirrors the Mousetrap play in Hamlet. This one retells the story of the murder of Hamlet’s father by his brother Claudius. But the names are different so how did Hamlet figure it out? Must be because he’s always making everything about him.
So where does he end up when he runs off? In a crazy, trippy house of mirrors of course. Could there by some symbolism going on? Anyhow, Juliet’s worried about him so she runs off after him and discovers him going all emo again about his dad. So she confides in him about how her lover Romeo (I’ve heard that name before…) killed himself because he thought she was dead but she was just knocked out by some special totally creepy knock-out juice that made her sleep for 2 days.
Hey wait! I thought Juliet died in R&J? Yup. But she gets saved in this version just before she stabs herself and ends up leading the rebellion.
Then cue full-page image of Juliet and Hamlet on either sides of a wall, all Pyramus and Thisby style, talking through a wall and commiserating.
“O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.”
– Twelfth Night, II.iii
Hamlet and the others run into Morton. (Not to be confused with this Morton.) He was discovered spying for the rebellion and just barely managed to escape. Falstaff’s had enough of Hamlet’s waffling and declares that it’s time to find Shakespeare and get all this shit fixed.
In the mean time, Iago and Othello are training the resistance militia. Iago is giving some advice on how to beat stronger opponents like Othello. Seems that some of the advice is doing a number on Othello who gets his butt whipped and then walks off. Iago’s doublespeak is starting to twist and turn him and Othello starts his own #guiltfest.
Didn’t he shaft Iago when he passed him over for a promotion? Maybe murdering his wife Desdemona was all his fault and not Iago’s? And maybe Othello’s just a cool blooded killer anyhow?
Hamlet’s standing on his balcony musing about this whole Shadow King stuff when Juliet calls down from below and then climbs up to him. Some more clever R&J reversal. And finally they make out! The next morning, Falstaff, Iago and Hamlet set out towards… somewhere, to find Shakespeare.
Remember how Lady Macbeth was holding the Black Guard in reserve? Yeah, well Richard kinda went behind her back and invited them and their leader Philip the Bastard to join him in fighting the rebels. Pwnd!
Iago and Falstaff are poking fun at Hamlet about this whole Juliet thing when they are accosted along the road by a bunch of well-armed and armoured paladins or holy warriors. They’re not really buying this Shadow King stuff so their leader steps forward and asks Hamlet to prove it.
Who’s their leader? Romeo Montague, much less dead that previously reported.
Characters added: Philip the Bastard, Orsino, Romeo
Courtesy – IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing
Courtesy – IDW Publishing
What happens next? Well, I know but you should probably pick up the graphic novel to find out for yourself. But if you’re willing to wait, we’ll eventually tell you when we cover issues 9 through 12.
Whistling, snapping, switchblade fights, pastel sweaters, slacks, gelled hair, soda pop shops, black faced Puerto Ricans and a bunch of teenage thugs singing. Yep. We must be talking about the most famous adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:West Side Story(insert whistle riff).
Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s 1961 film version of the musical is full of colour (Technicolor even), long panning shots, clean and arm-swingy choreography, bright blue eyes, and everyone’s favourite feature of 60s era film with racially specific characters: face paint.
It’s the kind of makeup choice that just makes you want to ask, ‘why oh why didn’t you just hire an actual Puerto Rican actor?’
So it goes. It was 1961. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Face paint aside, we brawlers have to ask: is West Side Story a well done adaptation of Shakespeare’s most misunderstood love story? That being done, you have have to ask if this movie is very good, and if it is something that sustains the test of time.
It is actually a very fun movie, and the directors are clever with their choices of shots, colours, characters, sets and style. The deep zooms, pans, close ups, and trick where one character is in focus while everything else is blurry are all very nice. The movie is colourful and crisp and clean and always nice to look at.
Now, if you do not like musicals, you will not like this movie. I go through times where I really don’t like the Leonard Bernstein scores, and then I hear a tune in the car on the radio, and can’t help but turn it up. In the end, I think I will submit, suck it up, and say that I do like the songs.
I wonder if Shakespeare would like Twin Peaks? I wonder if he would like West Side Story?
I want to say yes and maybe.
The thing that hurts the musical is the romantic and idealized love story – that is in R&J – with no hints at the irresponsibility of the teenaged characters. As discussed in some legendary Bard Brawl podcasts, Romeo and Juliet is full of lines and situations that suggest the romance is nothing but an irresponsible romp by two hearts that are bigger than brains of teens who fall hard and fast with tragic consequences.
Ok. Rant done.
I will say those Tony – Maria songs are borderline unwatchable. You know that’s not even Benjamin Horne singing? Weird. It hurts me to say that Maria (the lovely and late Natalie Wood) is my least favourite pieces to the film.
As for the rest of the ladies, I d0 like Anita (Rita Morena). Hey! An actual Puerto Rican! And if you’re asking if that’s Sister Peter Marie Reimondo from Oz, you are correct. I wonder if Shakespeare would like Oz. I have to say a definitive yes on that one. Tobias Beecher. Classic Shakespearean character if I’ve seen one.
One more thing.
How the H did George Chakiris (who’s Greek by the way) win the Best Supporting Actor oscar over George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason in the Hustler? I don’t want to say Bernardo deserved that knife in the gut, but come on! Never trust awards shows.
Now was this a good adaptation? I’m going to go with a reserved yes. Is is a good film? yes. Does it hold up over time? Reserved yes.
In the end, there are problems with West Side Story. But I can’t say I hate it. I appreciate the adaptation of Shakespeare in such an interesting way, but wish it were a touch tougher.
Oh, and there’s no way people should be playing basketball in jeans!
(Podcast recorded and produced by Daniel J. Rowe, blog written and edited by Eric Jean)
Welcome Brawlers! I know Bard Brawl nation’s been waiting impatiently for this one and here it is, the dramatic conclusion to Romeo and Juliet.
I know you’ve all been dying to find out how this play ends so here it is: they die! Yup. Juliet, dead. Romeo, dead.
“For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
And that’s it really. The end.
Well, I don’t see the point in digging up the morbid details of a teenage double suicide but here goes, I guess.
Romeo’s buddy Balthazar shows up (booted!) in Mantua in act V, scene 1. Romeo is hoping for some good news but instead he learns that Juliet died and has been entombed in the Capulet crypts.
But it’s all good though because Romeo must have received the Friar’s message that this is just en elaborate and really dangerous ruse to sneak Juliet out of Verona and get her out of having to marry Paris.
Except he hasn’t received anything so he totally believes that Juliet’s gone. What’s a lovesick fool to do? Seek out a poor apothecary who’s willing to sell you some illegal poison. Then take that vial of poison, sneak into Juliet’ tomb and drink it down so you can be united in death.
(Maybe this is a good time to say it: don’t try this at home folks.)
At the start of scene 2, Friar John drops in on Friar Lawrence. Did John get the letter to Romeo? No. Why? Friar John was helping a friend care for the sick. And then he was quarantined and forbidden to leave the city or hand off the letter to someone else who could bring it for him.
But Father Lawrence, never being one for giving up, calls for his crowbar and suits up: he’ll rescue Juliet himself and hide her at his place until he can contact Romeo again.
(Maybe they should have gone with this version of the plan in the first place?)
Act V, scene 3. Enter Paris. Yes, him again. What is he doing in the cemetery with a bunch of flowers in his hand? Why, he’s planing to cover Juliet’s bier with flowers and lie down next to her. Tonight and every night.
Paris’ page is standing looking out he whistles when Romeo shows up with Balthazar with a shovel and a crowbar (who’s making all of these crowbars?). Romeo tells his friend that he’s just going in there to get some ring back that he needs and that he should scram and ignore anything that goes on in there.
Balthazar must be as creeped out about this as I am because he instead decides that he’ll hide out and spy on Romeo for a while.
Romeo cracks open the tomb and is about to enter when he is accosted by Paris. They fight. Romeo kills Paris. With his dying breath, Paris asks to laid out next to Juliet. Yeah, sure.
Hey Paris! Get a clue. Romeo and Juliet, not Paris and Juliet. (And definitely not Paris, Romeo and Juliet.)
Romeo enters the tomb and find Juliet lying there, lifeless. So he makes this massive death-bed speech and downs the super fast-acting poison.
…and then Friar Lawrence arrives.
Balthazar tells him Romeo’s been in there doing God knows what for about half an hour. Friar Lawrence notices the bloody swords and then Paris’ body.
…and then Juliet wakes up: “Hey, where’s Romeo?”
He’s kinda sorta dead.
Juliet’s not too excited at the prospect of living the rest of her life as a nun I guess so she grabs Romeo’s dagger, stabs herself and dies.
The watch finally arrives and takes everyone into custody while they wait for the prince to show up. When he does, Friar Lawrence spills the beans on the whole crazy plan.
Finally, the prince blames the Montague’s and Capulet’s feud for causing their children’s death. Overcome with grief, the Montagues and Capulets finally reconcile.
No one cares what happens to Paris.
We’re not quite done with Romeo and Juliet yet, though. We still have a speeches podcast coming up. If you have suggestions for which speeches you would like us to talk about, let us know in the comments below!
This week, another first-time sonneteer swings by as Kathleen “Momar” Rowe delivers Sonnet 55 with “Epic Diva” effect.
And hey. Buy ‘Zounds!You’ll never regret or forget it.
Well, despite the fact that we’ve already established that postponing the wedding of Juliet and Paris from Wednesday to Thursday was totally reasonable, by the start of act IV, Friar Lawrence just isn’t on board with that. Could he be right? Is that really too soon? Obviously, Friar Lawrence is really only worried about his hide: he can’t marry one girl to two guys. Well, not in this church at least.
On the other hand, maybe Paris is right: Tybalt was just a cousin. Pretty sure Emily Post’s wedding etiquette doesn’t even have an entry for the appropriate wait time in the event of a violent and non-accidental death of a (sort of) loved one. Just stick the mourning Juliet in a social event and we’ll peer pressure those tears right out of her.
Once Paris is shooed away, Juliet pulls a Romeo and breaks down but Friar Lawrence tell her that there’s still a slim chance for her and Romeo to be together forever. Small catch: she’ll have to kill herself.
Say what? That doesn’t seem very Christian!
Actually, she’ll have to take drink one of Friar Lawrence’s roofies sleeping potions which will make her seem dead for 48 hours. That will make her family bury her in the family crypt. Romeo will then swoop in, rescue her before she suffocates, and steal her away to Mantua while Juliet faking her death and Romeo killing Tybalt blows over. Shouldn’t take more than 2-3 weeks tops, right?
Looks like everything is good to go. Friar Lawrence just needs to let Romeo know about that plan and everything will turn out perfectly.
In scene 2, Lord Capulet is busy planning the wedding when Juliet walks in and seems suddenly and mysteriously zen about the whole marrying Paris thing. She just wants to make daddy happy. Nothing suspicious about any of this at all.
Juliet retires and asks the nurse to help her pick out a suitable wedding outfit. Once she’s picked out her outfit, she dismisses her nurse and lies down on the bed with Friar Lawrence’s elixir. Can she really trust that this potion will work properly? Will she ever wake up? Is this really going to work? Only one way to find out: down the hatch!
The following afternoon, preparations for the wedding are in full swing, and Paris is just about to show up for his big day! Time for Juliet to wake up!
Except she doesn’t.
The Nurse finds her lying dead in her bed in scene 5. Everybody files into the room: mom, dad, Paris and of course Friar Lawrence. The friar tries to calm everyone down. Creepy Paris still thinks this is about him somehow and asks to lie down next to her. Lord Capulet orders the food to be served as a funeral feast, the musicians are asked to play some sad music. They agree once they’re sure they’ll still get paid, and be allowed to stick around for the buffet.
I wonder if Friar Lawrence has any idea whether his potion worked or not. I also wonder how his archbishop would feel about all of this. And where the hell is Romeo and what has he been doing in the past few days? He wasn’t in this act at all!
Guess you’ll have to wait for act 5 to see if he got our text message /email/ Facebook invite / carrier pigeon / monk-o-gram.
Please Welcome our newest sonneteer to the brawl, the legendary lord of St. Leonard, Mark Della Posta reading sonnet 39.
Mark should not be confused, however, with the other legendary lord of St-Leonard, Roberto “The Manimal” Luongo.
And hey! Buy ‘Zounds!You’ll never regret or forget it.
Miki Laval When I was 15, I knew exactly what loved looked like. Love was a slim blond boy with lanky legs, and hair I wanted to sweep back from the sides of his pretty face. He walked quickly and sat quickly. He came and left rooms quickly, every muscle always ready to go. To me, his speed was beauty and grace. Yet love was also languid and brooding, a poet, of course, who scribbled in a notebook between long stretches of staring into space while smoking a cigarette. In other words, this:
Sigh… To a 15-year old girl, one still plastering her walls with rock star posters, love sure looks a lot like a young Leonardo DiCaprico. He’s my generation’s definition of a heartthrob, and so a delicious fit for the world’s most epic teenage love story. Yes, he’d already shown rare talent in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and The Basketball Diaries, yethe and co-star Claire Danes were essentially darlings from TV land back in 1996. Then Romeo + Juliet hit theatres, and both actors proved they had serious chops, capable of moving from puppy love to the grand passion all tragedy requires. So how did the duo handle the Elizabethan dialogue? Well, at the time, there was a lot of clamour from outraged purists, but I’ve re-watched the film twice in the past few days and the Bard’s iambic pentameter sounds pretty good to my ear. Or I’ll say this, though neither Danes or DiCaprio have perfect elocution, the words flow with an intensity and ardor you don’t learn in theatre school. Besides, the point of Romeo and Juliet (the play) is that the central characters are children, and what acting skills Leo and Claire bring to the film is all in their baby faces, their creamy skin, their youth, not in their tongues. Yes, they are that pretty. Just watch them steal looks at each other in the infamous fish tank scene.
Forget Leo as Romeo. Isn’t Danes as Juliet melting loveliness? She clearly lusts for Romeo, yet despite what’s coming – a head spinning series of kisses that will leave her in a state of prickly heat – she keeps her wits about her. Later, the two swirl around each other from ballroom, to elevator, to balcony, to swimming pool, all the while bandying words back and forth with passion and spirit. Danes and DiCaprio understand that language is foreplay and an artful, erotic pleasure. To the naysayers who claim the dialogue isn’t up to snuff, I say these two make Shakespeare sound sexy. As for the film itself? There are throbs of neon in the night. Gobs of neon. Blazing fireworks explode across the black skies. There is all the razzle-dazzle, costumery, bubbles, bells and whistles anyone could dream of. Director Baz Luhrmann opens his film like the bullet-spraying master Tarantino; he choreographs the fight scenes as beautifully as John Woo, meanwhile, the frenzy of jump cuts make MTV (you remember MTV) seem like a stumble on Quaaludes. All this whirlwind action serves to convert the play’s intense emotions and language to vision. This is a play you see more than hear. And, boy, in the switch from the ear to the eye, does Luhrmann go wild with the modern images. Instead of gold, wads of cash are flaunted. Instead of swords, flashy semi-automatic pistols are drawn. Horses are doffed for retro convertibles that burn up the urban streets. It’s a nice touch too, having the two gang families dress in opposing “colours,” the Montagues favouring Hawaiian shirts, while the Capulets mobster up in dude suits. The film also features a gifted gaggle of players, most notably Harold Perrineau as a black gender-bending Mercutio, Pete Postlewaith as the splendid, scene-stealing Father Lawrence, and a corpolent Paul Sorvino who plays Juliet’s daddy like a bizarro wiseguy from Goodfellas. “Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody,” Henry Hill. Throw in some castles, some choppers, some bulletproof vests, and boom, Luhrmann shakes up a 400-year-old play without bowdlerizing or breaking its central and touching innocent idea. Which is what exactly? Only that love, sweet love, still blooms despite the violent world that usually steamrolls over it. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is nothing new, of course. Besides the innumerable theatrical productions, it’s been made over as a ballet, as well as a Broadway musical, and now there’s a new British film adaptation based on a Julien Fowles screenplay. To the latter, I say, Yea Gads! go rent Baz Lurhmannn’s rabidly flamboyant version instead. The fervour and grace of his Romeo and Juliet will have you free falling into the giddy, head-tripping, crush of epic love.
Welcome back to the Bard Brawl! With the madness of the ‘Zounds! launch party behind us, we were finally able to get the crew together to record act III of Romeo and Juliet where no doubt nothing but steamy love-making scenes and happily-ever-afters await us!
Lots of action in this act and it starts right away with a confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt in scene 1. Benvolio and Mercutio are hanging out in the sun when Benvolio suggests they should probably head inside to avoid the roving bands of wild Capulets which are wandering the streets. Before they can leave though, Tybalt shows up with ‘others’ and Tybalt tries to start some shit. Mercutio seems eager to go at it too but Benvolio tries to get them to either calm down or get out of the street so they don’t get caught fighting.
Eventually Romeo shows up and tries to break things up but Mercutio just thinks he’s being a pussy and ignores him. He draws his sword; Tybalt draws his. As they fight, Romeo steps in but Tybalt uses him as a screen, skewers Mercutio and splits. Mercutio tries to crack a few jokes about being stabbed and killed in a gang war, blames Romeo for getting in his way and says “a plague on both your houses” a few times before biting the bullet. Tybalt comes back (for some strange reason) and then Romeo kills him.
Taking Benvolio’s advice, Romeo runs the hell away. Of course, as soon as he’s gone, Benvolio snitches to the Capulets, Montagues and the Prince. The prince is fed up and banishes Romeo. I would have just killed him and been done with it. I’m sure Juliet would have learned to love Paris, right?
Anyhow. Scene 2. Juliet’s waiting at home for her nurse to come back with the rest of the plan and a rope ladder for her to sneak off to marry Romeo. Eventually the nurse does come back with a ladder and some bad news. Something about Tybalt being dead. Also something important about Romeo… something about Tybalt… Romeo… Tybalt…
This goes on for a while until eventually she gets it out: Romeo killed Tybalt and has been banished. Juliet is worried she’ll die a virgin so she sends the nurse back out to fetch Romeo so he can collect his… goodbye kiss.
Since running away from the scene of the crime, Romeo’s been hiding out at Friar Laurence’s. He’s bitching and moaning about how banishment is worse than death, he’s dead without Juliet, how he wishes the prince had just killed him, yadda yadda angsty teenager stuff. Friar Lawrence talks some sense into him: ‘Hey pathetic excuse for a man (almost)! We’ll just come up with a plan to sneak her out of the city and you can still be together in Mantua until all of this blows over!” Yay!
So what’s this genius and totally fool-proof plan? Friar Lawrence says he’ll sort it out but, in the meantime, Romeo’s got some marital business to attend to in Juliet’s bed.
Even in the crazy world of R&J, death in the family means that weddings needs to be postponed. The wedding between Juliet and Paris which Lord Capulet and Paris are already planning out, and which was scheduled for the way-too-soon date of ‘this Wednesday,’ has been pushed back all the way to the much more socially respectable ‘this Thursday.’ It just seemed like the right thing to do. (It’s currently Monday morning.)
Seems like Shakespeare decided to cut out the explicit portion of this act (bummer) because when scene 5 opens, Romeo and Juliet have already consummated their marriage and are lying in bed doing what all young couples do after their first time: discussing ornithology. They’d love to lay there and talk about nightingales and larks all day (are these even indigenous to Italy?) but Lady Capulet comes knocking. Romeo sneaks out the window, educating young boys the world over in the proper behaviour after such a nocturnal encounter: “I’ll call you.”
Juliet isn’t convinced this is all going to work out.
Once the coast is clear, she lets her mother in. Lady Capulet first promises her that as soon as they find Romeo, they’ll kill him for Tybalt’s death which she is sure will make Juliet very happy. But not quite as happy as this next bit of news: Juliet’s going to get married to the amazingly wonderful and bland Paris who her parents totally approve of!
No way, mom and dad: I’m into bad boys!
Dad’s not too happy and basically tells her that she has two alluring options: either she can shut up and show up to marry Paris on Thursday or she can choose to be disowned by her father who would cast her out to starve in the streets.
What can she possibly do now? Run over to Friar Lawrence who’s probably had enough time to think of something by now.
While things are looking pretty grim right now, in an alternate universe where it’s always 1988, Romeo and Juliet had a daughter and this lovechild of a torrid night of passion produced this:
Here’s hoping you aren’t crying yourself to sleep each night to this song while thinking about the Romeo and Juliet who could have been but whose love was ruined by people with no appreciation for fedoras, round shades, trench coats, big hair and sand.