Flawed Romeo and Juliet delivers strong emotionsRomeo and Juliet
Written by William Shakespeare.
Directed by Jayme Koszyn.
Starring Monica Gomi '94
and Eugene Chiang '95.
Kresge Little Theater.
November 19-21, 8:00 p.m.
By Joshua Andresen
The MIT Shakespeare Ensemble has created an unusual and captivating production of Romeo and Juliet. Director Jayme Koszyn gives a very dark interpretation of Shakespeare's classic love story, emphasizing the evil in many of the characters. Monica Gomi '94 gives an astounding portrayal of Juliet with a performance that brought some members of the audience to tears. Overall, the ensemble gives a presentation that is as thought-provoking as it is enjoyable to watch.
Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed and better known plays. It revolves around the love of Romeo Montague (Eugene Chiang '95) and Juliet Capulet, who marry despite the bitter feud that rages between the Montague and Capulet houses. The play ends in tragedy as Romeo and Juliet commit suicide rather than face life apart.
Koszyn makes this a dark play by bringing out the evil in the characters of Capulet and Paris. Capulet (Orin Tempkin G) is portrayed as a businessman who wears expensive suits; this use of modern costuming and professions is very successful. Capulet is head of the household, and in this production he is portrayed as a violent man. He does not hesitate to shove Tybalt (Orin Percus G) aside at the Capulet's gathering when Tybalt threatens to go after Romeo. He also is quick to raise a hand against his daughter, and he aggressively shoves her around when she disobeys him.
Paris (Sean Ningen '93) also comes across as evil rather than naive, which is perhaps the standard interpretation. In one particularly disturbing scene, he attempts to force himself on the obviously distraught Juliet after he and Capulet arrange for her to marry him.
The characterizations of Capulet and Paris make the anguished grieving of Juliet even more pitiful, and Gomi delivers an amazing performance in this respect. Her eyes, expression, and body movement were perfect in arousing the emotions she meant to portray.
Chiang was very strong as Romeo as well, though his intensity faltered at times. Perhaps Ryun Yu '93, who played Mercutio, would have been better cast as Romeo. Every time Mercutio appeared, Yu stole the stage with his enthusiasm and excellent acting.
This is a technically immaculate production. From the costuming to the set design, there is not a technical flaw to be found. Koszyn also did an amazing job directing this play. The blocking is perfect and the use of the scrim, which is an integral part of the set, is novel and effective. In one particularly nice effect, Paris and Capulet discuss the arranged marriage of Juliet and Paris over a marble desk while behind the scrim Lady Capulet (Stephanie Gellar '94) sits motionless, holding a basin of Tybalt's blood.
One rather interesting production aspect involved the introductions to the first and second halves of the performance. The actors that are to appear on stage first dance to rap music that comes from an onstage stereo. The lyrics of are full of obscenities and could even be construed as offensive. This stands in sharp contrast with the Elizabethan English of Shakespeare, and the effect is undesirable. While Romeo and Juliet is a rather bawdy play, the bawdiness is delivered in a subtle and dignified manner, as opposed to the blunt style of the rap lyrics.
The show is not without its weaknesses. The performances of Rosa Ren '94 as the nurse and Vinu Ipe '95 as Friar Lawrence were substandard. Neither said their lines clearly or expressively. The nurse especially needs to be effective, as she is meant to provide the comic relief. Ren delivered her lines with a flat intonation throughout, and most of her humorous lines were lost on the audience.