Aaron Clifton Moten and Louisa Jacobson in "Romeo and Juliet." Photo by Jim Cox
The Old Globe Theatre’s new production of Romeo and Juliet, capping off its Summer Shakespeare Festival, is a youthful and sometimes outrageous take on the immortal love story. Its stage is a giant sandbox, complete with shovel, pail and items buried beneath the surface. Most actors perform in their bare feet. Romeo (Aaron Clifton Moten) and Juliet (Louisa Jacobson) are giddily overcome with love, as teenagers will be. In fact, the whole first act is a romp not for purists: At the masked party, Juliet belts out “Copacabana” like a disco diva. Later, Mercutio (Ben Chase) channels Mick Jagger on “Beast of Burden.” Throughout, Juliet’s nurse (Candy Buckley) goes full brazen sitcom on the proceedings.
Director Barry Edelstein, who imagineered this playfulness, charts a more traditional course in the play’s deadly and heartrending second act. Though even then, a fierce portrayal of Friar Laurence by Jesse J. Perez departs from by-the-numbers stagings of R&J. In integral and revealing junctures, Mark Bennett’s original music and the accompaniments of pianist Justin Gray provide brooding and beautiful atmosphere. Not every bold stroke in this production succeeds. Then again, live theater is for the bold.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 8/21/19.)
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat