B’DAT kicked off February with its production of the Shakespearean love tragedy, Romeo + Juliet, which starred Dylan Nadelman and Adelaide Lobenthal as Romeo and Juliet, respectively. However, this was not your average run of the centuries-old work. With the play taking place in “an American City in the present day between the Last Sunday in June and the 4th of July,” as mentioned in the show’s program, it’s safe to say that this rendition added a modern twist to the plotline–a twist similar to that of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. It also added another interesting and ironic twist in gender roles. Romeo + Juliet, like many of William Shakespeare’s works, was originally intended to place males in female roles, as women were forbidden to act during the Shakespearean era, and Jo Ann Cimato’s interpretation of the play accomplishes the exact opposite of that by placing females in certain male roles.
From the moment you walk into the theatre, you can feel the modern aura of B’DAT’s Romeo + Juliet. You can hear hipster, pop music blaring over the speakers as the audience takes their seats, something that you would not expect in a traditional production of the play. In addition to introducing the viewer to the modern setting of the play, the music also played an imperative role in telling its story as well. In some scenes, such as the fight between Romeo and Tybalt in the first half of the play, there was hip-hop music playing right before they started a fight together. As soon as that music broke out, I told myself, “this scene is gonna be intense,” and the fight started right after that, sparking a lot of gasps from audience members like me. In other scenes, such as the iconic balcony scene where Romeo and Juliet see each other, live music was played by cast members who played instruments such as the violin, piano, and ukulele. Not to mention that this live music was composed by one of B’DAT’s own students, Grace Albano. I was overall capitvated by how the play’s story was told through music by embodying the feelings that were brought out in multiple scenes and integrating the cast members’ musical talents into expressing them as well.
The magnificent acting on the stage was another thing that grabbed my attention, big time. From the Nurse sticking her middle finger towards another character to Friar Lawrence sitting down and doing his morning meditation, I can say that a lot of the acting was really amusing. At the same time, the death scenes of characters like Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo, and Juliet spawned tons of contagious grief, spreading from the actors to the audience members as they were all mourning the loss of such characters. And one more thing to note about the acting was the stage combat. The large amounts of force and might executed by the cast members in the heart-stopping fight scenes reflected the violent and brutal tone of these scenes skillfully and effectively.
Also, I have to say how excellent the lighting was. Whether it was for the purple lights that shone at the party where Romeo and Juliet first saw each other, or the dark blue aura of the balcony scene, or the yellow lights that lit up in Friar Lawrence’s morning scene, you could easily differentiate the various settings within the play, amidst a simple set that never physically changed throughout the performance. This is a testament to the strength of both the actors and the story as they didn’t need other physical elements to establish their world. In conclusion, I’ll use this phrase to describe B’DAT’s Romeo + Juliet: an “interactive adventure.” It was interesting to see how the story was not just told through the actors’ recital of Shakespearean English, but also through an amazing combination of acting, music, and lighting. This wild and wonderful mix made for an artistically pleasing version of Romeo + Juliet, as the story was told from a unique lens, and was able to successfully capture the shock and awe of its viewers.