Romeo and Juliet at the Guthrie Theater through October 28 is fresh, sexy and brilliantly directed by Guthrie’s artistic director Joseph Haj. I especially loved the humor and vibrancy of the staging and the modern cadence of Shakespeare’s words. The play sizzles with energy and will absolutely appeal to younger middle and high-school audiences. The set design and loose, drapey costumes are evocative of the original period, but with a grunge, hipster vibe. Tattoos and piercings abound, contrasting the younger characters against their more buttoned-up, formal elders. In the first act, Ryan-James Hatanaka as Romeo Montague is adorably puppy-dog lovesick but infuses his character with the appropriate gravitas in the second act as the lovers’ fates are sealed. Kate Eastman gives her Juliet Capulet an independent, rebellious spirit and convincingly transitions to adulthood as she too realizes their fate. Lamar Jefferson (Benvolio), Corey Farrell (Potpan) and Candace Barrett Birk (Nurse) are standout supporting actors in a play filled with superb performances. Stan Demidoff is menacingly hot as troublemaker Tybalt. The real surprise is the excellent Kelsey Didion, who plays the usually male character, Mercutio, as a tough, popping and locking, street-wise best friend who delivers some of the raunchiest lines. The physical, street-dance movements and acrobatics also give this production its sexy, youthful appeal.
The story is so well known that it hardly needs summarizing. Shakespeare wrote the play early in his career about two young star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. It was among Shakespeare’s most popular plays during his lifetime and along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed. With this modern interpretation, Romeo and Juliet’s themes of fate, love, lust, passion, youthful impulsiveness, family duty versus independence, etc., remain timelessly relevant and heartbreaking.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, directed by Joseph Haj, Assistant Director Daisuke Kawachi. Choreographer Linda Talcott Lee, Scenic Designer Anna Louizos, and Costume Designer Jennifer Moeller. Now through October 28 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. 818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis. Tickets at the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (group sales) and online at http://www.guthrietheater.org. Young people ages 10 to 17 and their families have an opportunity to experience Romeo and Juliet at a $10 ticket price for a special matinee on Sunday, October 8 at 1 p.m.