Romeo and Juliet
Aaron Clifton Moten as Romeo and Ben Chase Mercutio. Photo: Jim Cox.

Romeo and Juliet

Old Globe Theatre, San DIego

Romeo and Juliet

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Barry Edelstein

The Old Globe, San Diego

August 11 to September 15, 2019

The Old Globe’s artistic director, Barry Edelstein, has crafted a memorable production of “Romeo and Juliet” that melds the timeless love story with pop and rock music, switches the gender of some of the supporting characters, and gives a playful nod to iconic contemporary treatments derived from the original. The result is utterly compelling. 

Scenic designer Takeshi Kata has provided the cast a giant sandbox on the Globe’s outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre stage in which to play. Its ample size is needed to hold the over-inflated egos of the feuding Montagues and Capulets. Standing barefoot in cool sand in all their finery (courtesy of costume designer Judith Dolan) and issuing heated taunts only underscores the foolishness of their long-held dispute.When words turn to blows, a dizzying assortment of swords and daggers are deftly plucked from the sand. High marks to fight director Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum.

The introduction of music and songs also holds surprises. Montague cousins frolic to “Celebration” by Cool and the Gang. Romeo (Aaron Clifton Moten) and Juliet’s (Louisa Jacobson) first dance is to the opening refrain of the 1968 movie score of Franco Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet,” performed by pianist and conductor Justin Gray. At the party, Juliet belts out “Copacabana” by Barry Marilow, that tells the tale of another “they were young and they had each other” failed love story. In another scene, just before Mercutio (Ben Chase) meets his demise, he taunts his enemies by snapping his fingers mimicking the opening scene in “West Side Story.” All nice touches.

Raising the bar for the role of the Nurse is actress Candy Buckley who portrays her as cougar. 

The second act dispenses with the contemporary flourishes as the story gets down to business. Moten and Jacobson are so convincing as smitten lovers, I found myself rooting for them despite knowing the inevitable outcome. That I had to stop myself from shouting out loud “Don’t do it!” when Romeo uncaps the poison vial, is a testament to fine acting under masterful direction.

By Lynne Friedmann

San Diego ,
Lynne Friedmann, based in San Diego, is an award-winning, freelance writer of news, feature articles, and blogs on science, travel, and the arts. Her decades-long passion for theater was sparked as a teen when the Inner City Cultural Center commandeered classroom curricula by bringing classic plays to urban high schools in Los Angeles.