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Romeo & Juliet @ Fullerton Community College – Review

Photo credit: Thea Valerie

Written by Patrick Chavis

Romeo & Juliet is playing now at Fullerton Community College at the Bronwyn Dodson Theatre May 9 – 11 and May 16 – 18, 2024. 

Story:

This adapted Romeo & Juliet from Aubrey Saverino brings the famed star-crossed lovers into the early 1970s with a flare reminiscent of the musicals such as Hair and West Side Story. It features mind-expanding cinematic sequences you want to jump into and a young cast that brings the passion — full stop.

The original Romeo & Juliet is about two Italian kids. In this adaptation, they are from 1970s New York. They still fall in love at first sight. Call it love or lust, but I will call it love because I know where this story goes. Love is hard to pin down, even for the most cynical. 

The Ensemble

Romeo (Nicholas Martinez) and Juliet (Emma Camille Ignacio) are madly in love, and everything works out well, except not because this isn’t Disney. Shakespeare, requires drama! Romeo is a Montague, and Juliet is a Capulet, both part of warring families that hate each other’s guts. Will love conquer all? There’s really no way to know unless you go to the show or open a book or look it up on the internet. Okay, there are many ways to know, but watching it in its original medium is still the best way to see this story. 

As a play, Romeo & Juliet has survived the test of time. There are many reasons — economic, historical, political, and cultural — why stories live on. One of those reasons is when a story holds relevance that transcends its time, and Romeo & Juliet is one of those stories. When hate exists and tribalism runs amuck, those who suffer the most are often the young who are crushed under the hubris of the so-called wise elders. The more it happens, the more Romeo & Juliet makes a lot of sense. 

Emma Camille Ignacio, Nicholas Martinez

While I obviously can’t speak for the play’s adapter, Aubrey Saverino, I did notice similarities from several sources that may have inspired this production. Hair the Musical is a possible inspiration. Hair is set in the 60s. This play is set in the early 70s. The early 70s had residuals of the 60s, but that wasn’t the primary connection. Like Hair, even the side characters are active when the main actors perform. Like life, the world doesn’t stop moving when you deliver a monologue. What the actors were doing on the side of the stage was just as entertaining as what was going on with the main actors. 

I felt encased, in some ways, in the action as a rafter sat behind the audience, allowing fights and other discussions to happen from many different angles in the Bronwyn Dodson Theatre. 

Cali Calixto

The fight sequences from Fight Choreographer Michael Muller took this production to another level. You could hear those punches landing from my seat, and the actors sold it: wincing, falling on the ground, and sacrificing their bodies for the performance. It looked like it hurts. I hope everyone is okay.    

Oh my gosh, the ballroom scene. That moment when they first meet — they got that just right: the lighting, the chemistry between the leads. The only word for it is cinematic.

Set Design:

The set design from Zelida Solorio is a New York-inspired design that fills up the entire performance space in general. Many designers would leave open space in front of the stage blank to allow movement, but Solorio brilliantly made it a place for park benches, like Central Park. It’s a thoughtful design, from the park benches to the fire escape that stands in for Juliet’s balcony. 

The sound design choices were quite good. However, some moments would have benefited from louder music, as it sometimes sounded quite faint. The musical soundtrack was lovely.  

Direction/Acting:

Saverino’s direction tied everything together in the piece. She adapted this piece and understood it.  Her understanding allowed her to take the story further and connect the Shakespearean language with her new vision. This is showcased in Emma Ignacio’s captivating performance as Juliet.  She wonderfully delivers the poetry and the beautiful lines, as well as the screaming, the yelling, and the joy of being a young girl who is now in love. 

Nicholas Martinez’s calm, collected exterior matched Ignacio’s more emotional energy on stage, making them a great pairing. Martinez has a fantastic presence on the stage.   

Cali Claixto’s fighting and performance as the character Tybalt were highlights of this production and contributed to some of the night’s most exciting moments.  

L Castro’s Benvolio was well-matched for the character and brought out some of its funnier aspects.

I laughed, chanted, and gasped a few times. I never thought I would say that about Romeo & Juliet.

Review
8.9 Overall
0 Users (0 votes)
Story9
Acting8.4
Set & Design9.5
Costumes8.4
Entertainment9
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Excellent Show! OCR Recommended!

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