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Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

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1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio

Monday, October 28, 2013

Folger Shakespeare Library's Romeo and Juliet

Since I had tickets to see Romeo and Juliet live at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. for this weekend, I decided to go see the new Romeo and Juliet film on Saturday -- and make it a Romeo and Juliet weekend!
I’ll write about the film tomorrow, but first let me tell you about the play.
It was great!

If you are able to go see it, you really should. It’s entirely worth your time.
It is playing through 1 December and you can get tickets and information here:
I am not a professional theatre critic, but I do want share some of my thoughts with you.
I love going to the Folger because the theatre is not very large and it is designed after the theatres of Shakespeare’s time. The actors almost always run through the length of the theatre itself and it makes the experience very immersive, which I love.

Interior of the Folger Theatre

The show, directed by Aaron Posner, is definitely going for a younger audience. The actors, the music, the tone of the play is edgier than usual.
As much as I prefer a more classical approach to Shakespeare, I don’t think this choice harmed the production. It is just a matter of taste.
I had just seen the new film version of the play, which was unapologetically classical in its approach and perhaps too much so. I can’t say it was boring, but it could have used more energy. And the film didn’t really get the comedy in the play correct.
This production really goes for as much comedy as possible. 
I love the gag with the frozen yogurt. Hilarious!
All too often the play is performed as if the comedy isn’t even there. I am convinced that Shakespeare wrote as much humor as possible in order to keep his audience entertained, and in order to make the tragedy more effective. This production gets the humor written in the play.
So, if you like like Romeo and Juliet on the edgier and funnier side, then this is the perfect version of the play for you.
Not far away from me in the theatre, there was a young boy, probably around 12, who was laughing all the way through.
During the intermission, I overheard him say “I know this is supposed to be a tragedy, but there’s a lot of funny stuff in it!”
That kid got it. Shakespeare, wherever he is, is smiling.
And the teacher who taught him that it’s just a tragedy needs to see this production at the Folger.
The cast was excellent and full of energy.
Erin Weaver was fantastic as Juliet. She was funny, smart and very feisty -- in a good way. She has a natural command of the language and the part, and I think she really connects with the audience.
Also, I have rarely seen a stage actress (or film actress for that matter) who can convincingly cry as well as she can. As good as she was during the lighter moments, she just nailed it later during the more dramatic scenes. 
Erin Weaver

Michael Goldsmith was very good as Romeo. He certainly looks the part -- tall and handsome. He is not quite the Romeo I was expecting, but he is full of youthful energy and the chemistry is very good between him and his Juliet.
The balcony scene was especially quite good between them. I like the fact that it’s not just Romeo who climbs towards his lover. That was unusual, and fun to watch.

Erin Weaver and Michael Goldsmith

The rest of the cast is great. It’s hard to write about each and every one of them. They are all so good, and they obviously love this play.
But I do want to mention Sherri Edelen as the Nurse. I love the Nurse character, as many people do. Every actress I have seen perform it does it slightly a different way.
But Ms. Edelen does even more than I expected. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think it has to do with the fact that we, in the audience, must really believe that she loves Juliet with all her heart. 
Ms. Edelen is completely convincing in her love for Juliet.
I also want to mention Brian Dykstra as Juliet’s father. I think it is a thankless role, since he has to be such a terrible father. 
While I have never seen an actor perform this role and disappoint, Mr. Dykstra is spectacular. 
He takes the role to a whole different level. When he mimics his crying and “puling” daughter, it is  horrible in precisely the right way.
The play’s music was quite good, and especially effective later in the play.
I hope you go see this production. It will open your eyes to a different Shakespeare than you may have previously known!

P.S. Please come back tomorrow for my review of the film version.

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