Homestead High School has staged a delightful, “no-time, no-place” production of Romeo and Juliet, reminding us that though Shakespeare may seem a thing of the past its lessons about loyalty, family, violence, youth, and love still ring true. In Homestead’s production, they are switching things up a bit gender-wise, in keeping with their 2013-2014 Season for Social Justice. For this “no-time, no-place” version, the school focused on gender roles in society, and are challenging both the cast and the audience to examine some of the assumptions they might have about gender.
Director Amelia Figg-Franzoi’s gender flipped version is highly successful, but especially in the scenes between Romeo, Benvolio, Balthazar and Mercutio. Their conversations seem incredibly natural, while the intonations convey a sense that these scenes (though perhaps not the exact words) could be heard on the street today. The show also capitalizes on the gender flipping of the characters, making even the simplest thing a question about gender. This mixed with the inflection and gestures of the girls adds to the sense that these are interesting women who could fight and say these things.
Danielle Goodman as Romeo steals the show. Her dramatic arc from foolish lovelorn girl to joyous wife, and finally to grieving lover is well acted to say the least. The audience truly follows her transition, laughing at her folly, reveling in her happiness, and despairing with her when she drinks the poison. She has a true knack for pacing, comedic timing, diction, and ease with making the language appear modern. Goodman shines so strongly, that Juliet, as played by Mark Usatinsky rises up with her. His version of Juliet is a vulnerable yet stubborn Juliet willing to do anything for his love.
Other humorous scene-stealers include Alex Gieske (Mercutio), Sarah Mai (Benvolio), Lord Capulet (Peter Malicky), Paris (Maggie Collins) and Nurse (Dan Scott). The first act speeds by due to the actors finding the humor in the writing. It should also be noted that Katie Bandurski’s performance as the confessor and helper to the couple is incredibly dynamic, adding a fresh level of humanity to Sister Laurence’s character.
The cuts to the script are well justified but what is most clever is the change of setting for “Balcony Scene.” With budgeting cuts, Tech Director Wayne Peters said that they pieced together the set from other shows, but did not build a balcony. Thus the “Balcony Scene” takes place inside Juliet’s bedroom, more specifically around his bed. A very simple and refreshingly new way to look at the scene. Sound Designer/Composer Jonathan Barlett’s piano and guitar music adds to the texture of the piece while Emily Eckhardt’s costume design is clever in it’s subtlety of Medieval and Regency fashion mashed up with modern dress. Perhaps the stand out technical element of the show is the Fight Direction by Christopher Elst that leaves the audience on the edge of their seats waiting for the next quarrel to break out.
We all know what happens in this tale of star-crossed lovers, but Homestead’s new production provides for a different experience. As always the tragedy here is not simply in the lover’s death but in the fact that their families could not put aside a feud until they saw true love’s dedication and ultimate sacrifice. This production makes the morals hit closer to home, while the heightened comedy of the first act, makes the tone of the second act that much darker and the ending all the more tragic. The audience is reminded that while hate may be the easier route, it is love that is more rewarding after all the struggle.
To see the show for yourself, come to the James Barr Auditorium this weekend.
Saturday May 3 @ 7:30
Sunday May 4 @ 2:00
James Barr Auditorium
5000 W. Mequon Rd.
Mequon WI 53092