Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Young Lovers Strive For Meaning in A Sandbox Under The Stars.

In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” just seen on the Festival Stage last, Jacques speaks his oft -repeated poem “All the world’s a stage…” Moving forward, in the Globe’s current out-door showing, through Sept. 15th, the tragic love story between two young lovers, “Romeo and Juliet”, the stage is one giant sandbox designed by Takeshi Kata.
Cast at the ball
Their families, the Montague’s and the Capulet’s, carry out their hate fest for each other as they trek and run back and forth in the sand, sans sandals, in and around the sandbox edges; stage a masque ball, and carry out the rivalry between the two households as their revenge and angst continues well into the lives of the innocent lovers who pay in spades for their parents petty squabbles.

Friends, household occupants and relatives of each party, Juliet’s nurse (Candy Buckley, coming on as a comical character (“Bewitched” unlike in other performances), Friar Lawrence and Friar John (Jesse J. Peres and Jersten Seraile) and Capulet servant, (Hallie Peterson is a hoot as she rushes to deliver/read messages she can’t read) are there at the bidding of both households in a fast paced production, especially in the first act, that almost loses sight of what’s to come.
Aaron Clifton Moten and Ben Chase
Mercutio, (an over the top and high-spirited Ben Chase) Romeo’s close friend and Tybalt Juliet’s belligerent cousin (Yadira Correa) stage their famous duel (“curses on both houses”) with swords, knives, daggers and lances fished out from strategic places in the sand, as the all too oblivious young lover’s play cat and mouse avoiding any adult supervision.

In that same sandbox the lovers, in an overly choreographed love scene, consummate their marriage, speak of love, hate, anger with passion and sincerity, yet more tragically, die in each others arms as the adults who might have acted like adults, look on in horror at what they had done to their children.

It’s all so Shakespeare, even if abbreviated, and yet so heartbreaking, especially after just coming from an emotional “West Side Story”, the takeoff on Romeo and Juliet set to Leonard Bernstein’s music.
Aaron Clifton Moten and Louisa Jacobson
Coincidentally Edelstein’s production has lots of music including references to “I Love Lucy”, and “West Side Story”, with original music of Mark Bennett and Justin Gray playing the piano off to the side of the stage, with a large candelabrum for effect.

This new and appealing production, one you will not want to miss, oft comical and charming, delightful and refreshing, sometimes distracting with too much sand flying about has panels of a panoramic scene in the background of a modern day Verona that changes from black and white to washed red complete the picture and playing space.

But for the younger audiences on opening night, Edelstein put the ‘C’ in Camp capturing the high level, bordering on feverish mood with a lot of shtick. There’s a party happening, drinks are flowing, a new bling necklace is waiting in the wings and after crashing in on the party,  Romeo has just sighted the girl of his dreams.

A tinker toy piano with a Liberace candelabra at the ball, in the middle of the sand box where Juliet plays and sings a takeoff on Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”, is a hoot as the cast does the cha-cha-, of course in the sand.  This is classic shtick that Juliet does just to please her father, brings the house down. 

“Lola the showgirl… “her name was Lola, She was a showgirl…at the Copacabana ‘ the hottest spot north of Havana. They were young and they had each other. Who could ask for more?” set a laugh fest that lasted for a time
Jesse Perez, Louisa Peterson amd Aaron Clifton Moten

One little shtick that turned me off was Romeo looking more like  a troubadour, strumming his guitar and mocking Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”… “Well your faith was strong but needed proof, saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya…Hallelujah  just didn’t work for me even as Romeo was trying to shake off his once feelings for Rosalind. 

As director Edelstein notes, “The show is a celebration of youth and a cautionary tale about all the forces that buffet young people as they make their way through the world”.   

At the heart of this romantic tale of love and revenge is the sexy, attractive, charming and appealing (my words not Shakespeare’s) Aaron Clifton Morten’s Romeo.

Dressed in modern day white jeans and blue button down dress shirt, (Judith Dolan) and barefooted, his portrayal of one half of the star -crossed lovers and his instant attraction for Juliet at the ball sets in motion a tsunami that will wash over both families.
Louisa Jacobson
Lovely Louisa Jacobson’s Juliet is as quirky and impulsive as most teenagers seem to be as she ponders her star status as her age and station in life dictate that she marry.

Her slow merging from youthful play to lovelorn to some maturity, subtle as it was, takes shape as the star crossed lovers become one and she vacillates between love and hate when she learns Romeo has killed her cousin in that all to fateful duel.

Her father Lord Capulet (an of over the top and unnecessarily loud Cornell Womack) announces  that he has chosen a husband for his daughter, Juliet, a young and clueless Paris. (Mason Conrad) He is a nobleman and suitable suitor for the Capulet’s. Unbeknownst to her father she has already wed Romeo.

With much ado both Lord Capulet’s and Lady Capulet, (Sofia Jean Gomez) insist she readies for her wedding day sooner rather than later. All seems like fun and games for the young at heart especially the lingering moments at the balcony scene that could have gone on all night were it not for a call to Juliet from her nurse.

Children in their teens, both finding instant love in and for one another plan and plot of getting married on the sly and taking off to be away from the family feuding. With the help of a cockamamie plan by Friar Lawrence that set the stage for a more thoughtful and somber Act II, the lighting dimmed (Stephen Strawbridge) and the sound more muted (Sten Severson) with the realization that all would not be well in the dark caverns of Verona.

Death Scene
As was predicted, nothing ended as it should or everything ended as was laid out by a youthful Bard at a time when the sins of the ‘fathers were visited on the children and the children, in this case, as was in the case of Chava and Fyedka in “Fiddler On The Roof” and Tony and Maria in “West Side Story”, were led down the primrose path thinking the world was their oyster when in fact, it was nothing of the sort.

Opening and closing the show with two with two young children (Jaydn Washington and Veda Cienfuegos) with pails and shovels shown playing together without a care in the world might be symbolic to some, but seemed to be pushing the button too far. 
Cast of Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy will be remembered, children or not, and this particular production with an outstanding cast overall, will be talked about for this director’s out of the box (er sandbox) interpretation for many moons to come.   

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Sept. 15th
Organization: The Old Globe
Phone: 619-2345623
Production Type: Tragedy
Where: Old Glob Theatre, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $30.00
Venue: Lowell Davies Festival Stage
Photo: Jim Cox

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