Romeo and Juliet… for “Anti-Capulets”

Juliet over Romeo's body.
Photo by Molly Weibel

Teatro del Pueblo uses the Luminary Arts theater well. The venue’s sparse, stone wall towers above the faux concrete walls of the set for Romeo and Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate. Those walls are topped with razor wire and covered in graffiti. “Eat the Rich”, “Let Us Breathe”, “Anti-Capulets” and other declarations in both English and Spanish are scrawled across the wall. A solitary windmill, gray and mottled, stands stage right, surrounded by platforms of various heights, which almost gives the impression of a hilly, industrial vista. A set of security cameras tops a pole further downstage left. Juliet’s infamous balcony is the primary feature on stage right, complete with a trellis that Romeo will climb.

The environment is modern, gritty, and oozes a timely feeling of anti-capitalism (anti-Capuletism, if you will). This feeling is underscored throughout the re-telling of this Shakespearean favorite. The language of Love in a Time of Hate oscillates between familiar Shakespearean sonnets and a combination of modern English and Spanish that is lyrical, funny, and often topical. Music from the Bach Society of Minnesota provides an instrumental undercurrent throughout the show.

Romeo & Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate pushes the boundaries of this classic love story. It adds depth to Romeo and Juliet’s relationship by giving them “la causa” to bond over and stretches time so their love story isn’t the blip of a tryst that it was in the original. Right before intermission Romeo introduces Juliet to the inner workings of the ambiguous “la causa”. She spends an indeterminate amount of time (a day? a week? a month?) participating in the cause. Romeo puts a pair of sandals on her feet and then walks her through the commune, introducing her to comrades in desert-colored robes and identical off-brand Chacos who teach her how to do the jobs that keep their community running.

Romeo and Juliet in wedding scene.
Photo by Molly Weibel

There are several standout performances in Romeo & Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate. Isaac Quiroga as Santi is a charismatic host. The moment that he kicks the cartoony Shakespearean narrator off the stage was met with raucous cheers from the crowd. Abigail Chagolla as the nurse is warm, funny, and sweet.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that she carries Juliet’s prone body on and off the stage and makes it look easy. Juliet is petite, but she is a whole woman, so color me impressed and interested in hitting the gym with Chagolla. Paulina Aparicio-Rosales is a great Juliet. She hits the notes of an impassioned teenager perfectly and her second performance of the song that bookends the play might just break your heart. Alex Barreto Hathaway slays as Benvolio, switching between lyrical, modern Spanish and Shakespearean English with ease and charisma.

I attended on opening night and there were some visible nerves throughout the cast, which I believe will fade over the run of the show. I do think that this play could benefit from a semi-ruthless edit of the text to shorten the overall runtime and accelerate the pacing of the story in general, but this is an easy recommendation. The reinterpretation is unique and timely. The lyricism of the new English and Spanish reminds the audience how fresh and clever Shakespeare sounded to his original audiences. There are some delicious lighting cues, the set design is innovative, and the costumes are stunning and fun.

Romeo on stage at Teatro del Pueblo.
Photo by Molly Weibel

See Romeo and Juliet: Love in a Time of Hate if you want to experience a version of Romeo and Juliet that you haven’t before, see it if you like a little social justice in your love stories, see it if you want a tri-lingual viewing experience that will keep you on your toes.

If I could make one recommendation, though, it would be this: maybe revisit the original (even just a quick trawl through a wiki or a scan of its most famous speeches) before you go. The extra layer of delight in recognizing which plot points have been tweaked and which are the same but with freshened dialogue will definitely be worth it.

Romeo and Juliet: Love In The Time of Hate
June 23-30
Luminary Arts Center, 700 N 1st St., Minneapolis

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