Last Friday night, couples, families and friends laid out their blankets on the grass and set up folding chairs as they prepared for a night of Shakespeare when the Monroe County Civic Theater debuted a contemporary version of “Romeo and Juliet,” at Third Street Park.
As 7 p.m. rolled around, a representative of the MCCT announced, “Even though the play is set in modern times, let’s not let modern disturbances interrupt the actors.” With this note, people silenced their cell phones and settled in for a less-than-two-hour production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
The play opened with something many Bloomington residents can relate to: football. The grassy area in the middle of the park was set up as a football field, with yellow goalposts adorning each end of the stage area. The actors, in Bloomington South and Bloomington North High School football jerseys, kicked off the homecoming game between the Bloomington South Capulets and the Bloomington North Montagues as an introduction to the rivalry about to ensue throughout the production. Microphones helped the audience hear the dialogue and exchanges between the actors.
The line “do you quarrel sir?” in original Elizabethan, spoken by Gregory, played by Justine Kalb, segued the play from a well-played scene of football to an excellently choreographed on-the-field brawl between the Capulets and Montagues. The fight was so realistic that I almost feared for the safety of some of the actors. It helped draw the audience into the rivalry that would soon tear the play’s two lovers Romeo, played by Nate Stanger and Juliet, played by Ana Delong, apart.
The Capulets’ win in football led to the homecoming dance and banquet, where Romeo and Juliet met again. Romeo arrived in style with his friends in a yellow Jeep Wrangler as they drove onto the field for the start of the dance.
From the beginning of the play, the sway of contemporary music guided the scenes and helped underscore the character’s emotions. The homecoming dance opened up with the song “Play that Funky Music,” as the actors strutted onto the field and began dancing. The famous scene in which Juliet pines, “Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo?” was underscored by The Fray’s hit song “How To Save A Life.” Other songs included throughout the production were Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and Avril Lavigne’s “Innocence.” The inclusion of music throughout the play brought a modern touch to the original text.
The modern Bloomington twist made the production unique and brought new elements to the realm of Shakespeare. The audience seemed to agree.
“I’m glad they have Shakespeare in the park in Bloomington. It makes for a great night,” said audience member Craig Howard. “It was really cute, a cute performance.”
Bloomington resident Walter Owens thoroughly enjoyed the production.
“I think the person who abbreviated the original and brought it up to date should really be commended,” Owens said.
“Romeo and Juliet” will run at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Bloomington’s Third Street Park, which is located behind the City of Bloomington Police Headquarters, 331 S. Washington St.
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