Monday, October 11, 2010

Romeo and Juliet and Tight Leather Pants.

You know the story: two lovers from feuding families fall desperately in love and then they die.

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (CST)'s Romeo and Juliet pimps my shakespeare with a cavernous opening scene, grunged up with graffiti, grit and flashing gates. It's all very 2010, but the Bard's message is still there.

Crossing family means certain death.

I'm not going to review the play because there are those who do that for a living, and I have to admit it's hard to dislike anything in the venerable CST (the gasp-inducing views of the Chicago harbor from the second and third floors are worth the ticket price).  I will opine that Ariel Shafir as the ill-fated Mercutio, fills the theatre with charisma whenever he’s on stage.  He walked -- no -- ran away, with the production.

Sorry Romeo. For me, it's Mercutio forever.

Ariel Sharif fights to his death in Romeo and Juliet.

Mercutio is a hottie, but the stars of this story are the gel-haired boys, Romeo’s posse, young men who play with swords, dressed in tight leather pants and dark-washed jeans.  Who taunt and tease and flirt. They are boys on the doorstep of adulthood. These are the children who must die at the hand of their parents’ foolish conflicts.

But the crux begins with two families, Romeo's Montagues and Juliet's Capulets, strife-ridden with heirloom problems and absentee parents. Like many of today's YA novels . . . with a few less thou's and sirrah's, of course. . . Romeo and Juliet plots family against family, child against parent.

And some of those parents are gone or missing.

Who knew? Shakespeare was one of us--writing absentee parents into his YA plots. Romeo and Juliet uses the Missing Mom trope as metaphor: she's physically present, but emotionally and supportively absent from her children and family. Shakespeare supported the trend: dysfunctional familial relationships make for good plot, and as agent Mr. Bransford said, "It's inevitably going to be a rare book that features a happy, stable child with happy, stable parents."

Absent, missing, or disinterested parents?  A new trend in Young Adult Fiction or nothing new.  Parents have been AWOL since Lady Capulet tossed over her parent card to Juliet's nurse. And, to quote Chicago reviewer Chris Jones, "If you can't believe in Romeo and Juliet, what's left to love?"  What indeed?


  1. Too far for me, even with $20 seats, but what a great tie in to modern YA! Love it. Great post. :-)

  2. Thanks Jeannie! I wish you could see it, their productions are amazing; CST actually makes Shakespeare relevant and contemporary. And that Mercutio, aah Mercutio...

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