Written by Erin Tobin
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is one of William Shakespeare’s most popular works. It has been performed, retold and parodied countless times. Even someone who can’t stand the Bard is very familiar with the tale. And, if for some reason you’re not, there’s a handy summary –complete with hints and spoilers –at the beginning of the play. It goes something like this. The offspring of two warring families find themselves deeply in love, but the animosity between their families means things aren’t going to turn out well. It is a tale of love, swordplay, vengeance, confusing dialogue, and it was recently produced by the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre.
Despite being youth theater, the cast is a mix of all ages. Most of the actors are middle school and high school students, but a few are seasoned, adult veterans of the craft. In some ways trusting such a complicated play to young actors makes sense. The star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet are barely teens themselves, and their youthful angst, passion and haughtiness drives the plot. Played by Ryan Han, Romeo is almost the original lovesick hipster. He drifts from crush to crush until fate –and a bit of trickery –makes him cross paths with Juliet, played that evening by Siena Yusi. Yusi shares her part with McCallister Selva. On nights when Selva isn’t playing the title role, she delivers a standout performance as Mercutio, Romeo’s hot-headed friend. Displaying a firm understanding of the material and the language, she able to add personality and depth to the supporting character. Memorable performances also came from some of the older cast members, including Claire Day as Nurse and Shannon Michael Wamser as Tybalt.
There is nothing new about this production of Romeo and Juliet. It appears the intention was to keep things as traditional as possible. Fair Verona was represented through a simple, but beautiful, wooden scaffolding that included the lovely setting for the iconic –and often misquoted –balcony scene. Efforts were made to maintain historical accuracy for the costumes. Except one anachronistic moment –which was thrown in for laughs –the production is very much a stereotypical telling of the classic work.
But that’s not a bad thing. While the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre’s production didn’t breathe new life into the woeful story of tragic young lovers, it opened new eyes to the works of Shakespeare and hopefully ignited a spark in a new generation of actors and theatergoers.
November 6 – November 15, 2015