“Are you kidding me?”
That was my first thought when the School of Stage and Screen’s Romeo & Juliet began on Thursday, Feb. 17.
It was a happy thought and one full of excitement because I knew that if the first minute of the play brought laughing tears to my eyes, the rest of the production would be sure to wow me.
I wasn’t wrong.
This was no run-of-the-mill Romeo & Juliet. This production included anachronism, meaning that it mixed time period influences rather than completely staying in the Shakespearean influence.
As the director, Colin Wasmund explained, “I wanted to bring energy to the show and to appeal to the audience here because they’re mostly students. I think I feel like Shakespeare would appreciate that because that’s kind of what he did.”
Wasmund and co-directors Zoe Postlewait and Jacob Williams achieved this by including modern pieces of costumes, music, and language while still embracing the language and setting of Shakespeare’s play.
Each actor and actress had costumes fitting of their characters, from Tybalt’s grungy look to Benvolio’s feminine yet fierce attire. It felt more like a film than a live play and I hesitated to blink in fear of missing something.
The actors and actresses lived up to their characters’ lewd conversations and the audience knew exactly what Mercutio was referring to with his crude jokes by his gesturing and tone. He even “urinated” off-stage at one point during the play. However, when he became more vulnerable in his monologue, it was an intimate moment with the audience. The music slowed down to emphasize his words and the emotions they invoked which enhanced his character development.
Oh, and did I mention that our two leading roles were played by two leading ladies? How much more modern could you get? Don’t even get me started on the first kiss. The whole audience applauded and cheered for our two star-crossed lovers. Throughout the play, they both acted like giddy school girls experiencing their first love, which is most likely true for Juliet.
As many of the actors interacted with each other, it felt similar to how I would speak to my best friends, especially when Romeo was fawning over Rosaline as Benvolio egged her on. My first thought on Benvolio was that she had stolen the show and watching Jenna Gilmer confidently strut across the stage was phenomenal. Nurse? Let’s just say that Natalie Acevedo knew exactly how to take her character to the next level and I thought we would need to have an exorcism right then and there based on her performance- magnificent.
In Act I, the fight scenes ruled over everyone. Modern grunge music played as the actors moved in slow motion and the lights turned red. The stage and props themselves were simple which allowed the actors to have a wide range of movement and provided the audience with a clear view. A projection played in the back throughout the play to highlight key quotes, introduce stage directions, and display movie-like credits at the end.
Capulet, played by Kassidy McCormack, scared me half to death with her performance, specifically when she was telling Juliet she had to marry Paris. It was so believable that I felt the need to call Child Protective Services, let’s not forget Juliet is only thirteen. Maybe this is why Friar Lawrence was so concerned about saving room for Jesus when Romeo and Juliet couldn’t keep their hands off of each other.
Act II began with a visual of the mental chaos Romeo was experiencing and it was a beautiful display of the turmoil felt between lovers. This Act slowed down a lot as the plot became tragic, so it lost some of the excitement that the fights scenes provided for Act I, but it was still enthralling; as I, of course, acted like I didn’t know how the play ended. Spoiler- they both die at the end. This is when the set lighting really created magic by using massive shadows and contrasting soft hues with intense lighting. As Juliet prepared to sacrifice herself for love after finding her Romeo dead, the music turned dream-like and made the scene appear unreal.
My conclusion? WCU’s School of Stage and Screen continues to surprise me and any time spent at their productions is time well spent.