Tragedy presented with a different emphasis at CST

‘Romeo and Juliet’

Brittany Bellizeare and Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." (Liz Lauren photo)
Brittany Bellizeare and Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” (Liz Lauren photo)

2 ½ stars

We already have “West Side Story,” a tragic love tale of feuding groups based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Beautifully and emotionally interpreted with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, it’s parallel to current gang wars was not lost on a tearful audience at Lyric Opera’s closing 2019 production.

That Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Barbara Gaines would like to remind CST audiences that the problems Shakespeare dramatized and Bernstein put to music still exist, is laudable. However, given the set design, cast and costumes of the Gaines production, there probably should be a different title.

Gaines has set the action in Verona a year in the future, which is fine. But the set of fence and basketball court looks like West Side Story. The Capulet’s home looks like a farm house in Iowa complete with a porch swing. And Juliet’s father (James Newcomb) is snoring on an outdoor recliner during the “balcony” scene that turns the famed love scene into a comedy.

Tybalt (Sam Pearson, at center) threatens Benvolio (Cage Sebastian Pierre, with arms raised) as a brawl between the Capulets and the Montagues in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Tybalt (Sam Pearson, at center) threatens Benvolio (Cage Sebastian Pierre, with arms raised) as a brawl between the Capulets and the Montagues in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

In attempting to emphasize the needless acrimony and brutal murders in “Romeo and Juliet,” the production has minimized the young teenaged love of its romantic leads, Romeo (Edgar Miguel Sanchez) and Juliet (Brittany Bellizeare). However the fight direction by Rick Sordelet is excellent.

Shakespeare’s famed lines are there but they are sometimes hard to catch and seem out of place in a production that is more parody than tragedy.

“Romeo and Juliet” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater on Navy Pier through Dec. 22, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 or visit Chicago Shakes.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

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