Romeo and Juliet' opens with Latino flair

Posted by Michelle Minick

Two households, both alike in dignity and enmity, set the scene for the college's Theater Department's mainstage production of "Romeo and Juliet."

While set in the fair Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater, this uniquely stylized version of "Romeo and Juliet" takes place in the neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina sometime during the mid-20th century.

Directed by Lary Opitz, this Shakespearean modern-day masterpiece also showcased the designs of Garret Wilson (Scenic Design), David Yergan (Lighting Design), Jenna Glendye '11 and Patty Pawliczak (Costume Design), David Wolf and Barbara Opitz (Dance Choreography), Douglas Seldin (Fight director) and Kate Kelly Bouchard (Voice and Acting coach).

From the opening tableaux featuring all of the actors, it was evident that Lary Opitz was putting his personal spin on a classic tale.

When William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" comes to mind, one may think of the rich text and language, the balcony, two families feuding and two star-crossed lovers with a tragic ending.

However, this version included the Argentinean Tango and some impressive fight choreography and knife fighting.

Ultimately, Opitz's vision for "Romeo and Juliet" was that the tango was the perfect expression for violence and passionate love and that Buenos Aires was a very appropriate setting because of its cultural synthesis of food, language, music and dance, demonstrated mainly through the dual-cultural blend of French and Italian cultures and influences.

As a trained dancer, I held my breath, hoping that the tango would go smoothly. And, in the end, I was so impressed by how the actors held their own for such a technical, passionate and fiery genre of dance.

For the fight scenes, I knew a great deal of the secrets of stage fighting, as I took stage combat lessons when I was younger. It was great to see how the actors kept presentation and safety in mind.

It was interesting to see how, instead of traditional sword fighting, Opitz utilized knife fighting with medieval knives for the family feuds. In the end, I thought the fights seemed too presentational and choreographed, although to the rest of the audience it looked awesome and translated well.

As for the aesthetics of the production, the set, lights and costumes helped to piece together the performance. While the set was simple, it captured and distinguished the time period and location well.

However, the set became complex as a result of the use of the "doughnut" circular rotating system. This rotating component did an excellent job of providing smooth transitions and adding drama during the discovery of Juliet's death in the Capulet household.

The lighting was exceptional in creating the perfect mood and the ambient light created a soft and romantic quality to the overall atmosphere of the play.

The costumes were colorful and sophisticated, which added a more vibrant dimension to such a melancholic play.

An additional aspect that brought together the play nicely was the music. Astor Piazzolla composed the music in this production and there were a blend of violent, romantic, passionate and fiery intonations.

The music also did an excellent job of setting the mood and provided good transitions from scene-to-scene.

While Shakespearean English is practically its own language, Shakespeare suggested judicious advice about love that everyone could understand.

Shakespeare warned viewers that, "the course of true love never did run smooth," this astute remark can definitely apply to Romeo and Juliet and their definitive tragic demise.

Thus, "Romeo and Juliet" remains a classic romantic comedy that reverberates through society and even throughout the world today.

What is so impressive to me, however, is that the college's Theater Company and Music Department collaborated so well together. Students, faculty and the actors in the play all helped to create and produce the production.

In essence, it takes the complete collaboration to make our theater productions happen.

"Romeo and Juliet," under Optiz's spectacular direction combined with a talented and multitudinous cast provided an entertaining and enticing production that was very enjoyable to watch.

And if you missed this astounding production, you might just have to curse, "a plague on both your households, for never was a story of more woe/ than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Michelle is a sophomore Theater major and a Management & Business minor who loves to act, dance and play the bass guitar and the piano.

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