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May 28th
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Shakespeare In Love

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Shakespeare Santa Cruz falls in love with ‘Romeo and Juliet’

It’s the love story that never dies. However, in this case, the lovers at the heart of the tale do have a tragic ending, but still, the story at large in “Romeo and Juliet” is one that endures time and spans generational differences. It is the classic tale of boy meets girl, families forbid the love affair, and the lovers go against the wishes of their families. It’s a story about love and what happens when people try to interfere, because, as we all know, don’t tell people what to do when they’re in love.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” plays in the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen through Aug. 31. Opening night was packed and the cast received a standing ovation for a superb production. Other than a few actors (one lead in particular) having volume problems and falling quiet sometimes, the play was outstanding and entertaining. However, keep in mind—it’s a three-hour excursion in the woods with these actors, and even as amazing as the show was, you wish they could trim down the production—it runs too long.

Setting those minor concerns aside, director Kim Rubinstein has crafted together an elegant, classy, beautiful production. Her style is crisp and edgy at the same time. With beautiful lighting arrangements, a perfect musical score, stunning costumes and stellar acting, this play is for the most part, flawless. Rubinstein invites us, the audience, to the woods for an intimate look at love and everything that comes along with it.

We begin by seeing our lovers as soon as the play starts. There’s the lovely Juliet (Caitlin FitzGerald) in a lovely performance, and her beau Romeo (Charles Pasternak) who brings an intensity and honesty to his work. As everyone knows, the story that William Shakespeare penned goes like this: There are two families, the Capulets and the Montagues. In this rendition of the play, Rubinstein uses social class as the backdrop and conflict for the warring families. The Capulets are by far the “better off” of the two conflicting tribes here.

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Young Juliet (nearly age 14) falls for Romeo of the Montague family. They marry in secret and have a night to consummate their marriage. However, Juliet’s family forbids her from seeing Romeo and informs her that she’ll be getting married very soon. To trick her family, Juliet takes a potion that sends her into a semi-comatose state. They find her, grieve, and place her in a tomb.

Meanwhile, Romeo hears the news and believes Juliet is dead. He rushes to the side of his bride. There, he takes a poison and kills himself. But Juliet awakens from her sedated state to find her true love dead. So she stabs herself and dies. They are finally together, but in death.

The story is a tale that remains current. And so, it seems that Rubinstein has chosen to set “Romeo and Juliet” in modern day—but in Hungary (hence the gypsy scenes that pop up from time to time). Costume designer Olivera Gajic has infused a contemporary flair into the costumes, giving the story a current feel. In addition, doses of modern day culture are thrown into the play, including a shaving and brow tweezing session for Juliet. All of this works, because this story that was written so long ago applies to today—whether it be to people in Hungary or those in the SSC Festival Glen.

While the acting company is superb, there’s one character that steals the show—Nurse (Saundra McClain). Her performance is delicious as the caretaker to Juliet. She’s witty, modern, funny and charismatic. Kudos to McClain for her beautiful and natural performance: down-to-earth, yet also boisterous at the same time. Bravo.

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