About Me

My photo
I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Nature Theater of Oklahoma's Romeo and Juliet

Several weeks ago, I caught the Nature Theater of Oklahoma's interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. Wrote down my thoughts, and then promptly forgot about them until now. Here they are:

I discovered NToO's Romeo and Juliet, I believe, the old fashioned way: I read about it in the New York Times. It's not often I just read the premise of a play and think, "yes! I want to go to THAT," so I shouldn't be surprised that this play was exactly what I thought it would be and that I loved it.

The premise was this: the classic story of Romeo and Juliet recounted by a host of average, everyday people and then performed, verbatim, by members of the theater company.

The stories were endearing, hilarious and more often than not, entirely misinformed. I laughed probably from beginning to end. I'll admit, I felt the play derail a bit toward the end, as the actors launched into what was presumably a conversation they had had during the rehearsal process. At first one of the actor's talked about the experience of losing his virginity to his high school girlfriend with whom he was in love; his experience was starkly different from the story of Romeo and Juliet, but the way his own love story contrasted and, at turns, sweetly paralleled the classic was poignant and (more importantly) relevant. Then the conversation deteriorated into a meditation on neediness, vulnerability and acting, and I was lost. What did that have to do with anything? Also, there was a dancing chicken that I did not fully understand. But then the dialogue was rescued: the actors discussed the idea of being in competition with Shakespeare, and how can they write a love scene that will offer something the famous balcony scene does not. A good question, and the idea of how the balcony scene is somehow stuck fast deep inside all of us is at the heart of the Nature Theater's R&J.

But I think what really gets me about this concept is that this story is ingrained in us. Even when we don't know it ("And then Romeo decides to fake his death? Wait, and then does he tell Juliet to do the same thing? Yes! He tells Juliet to fake his death with him!") we know it. The story, the basic idea behind it, even the the most ludicrous retellings, was always right: two star-crossed lovers take their lives.

What was really compelling, to me at least, was to see how this story that we know so well in spite of ourselves, resonates with us; how it comes to settle in our subconscious and become a part of who we are.

"Two teenagers," the actors relate in one of the earlier accounts in the show, "who are really to young to do ANYTHING, fall in love."

It's a recurring theme: they were too young. Or they were too reckless, too stupid. "I think they weren't really in love," speculate some, while others exalt the purity of it.

One woman (or was it a man?) tried to understand why the play is read so often in high school: is it because teenagers can identify with it? Because every teenager, regardless or circumstances, has a love whom they would die to be with, and someone - or something - standing in their way. (It's a good theory - I know I did.)

This is what ultimately fascinates me about the show. The obvious and essential human need to share stories captivates me: how the hearing and the telling of them defines us, brings us closer to one another, and helps us understand better our own humanity, our own journeys. Romeo and Juliet examines a story that is told and retold so many times that we know it without knowing it, it ebbs and flows in our communal subconscious. We fill it with our own ideas, our own speculations and it becomes a part of who we are, an idea that I love.

No comments:

Post a Comment