DRAMA: “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” offer the ultimate “Shakesperience”

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DRAMA: “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” offer the ultimate “Shakesperience”

Romeo, played by Rafael Ruiz, dances with Juliet, played by Kazmiera Tarshis, at the masquerade ball and as they start dancing, they instantly fall in love with each other. Photo used with permission from Holly Cornelison.

Romeo, played by Rafael Ruiz, dances with Juliet, played by Kazmiera Tarshis, at the masquerade ball and as they start dancing, they instantly fall in love with each other. Photo used with permission from Holly Cornelison.

Romeo, played by Rafael Ruiz, dances with Juliet, played by Kazmiera Tarshis, at the masquerade ball and as they start dancing, they instantly fall in love with each other. Photo used with permission from Holly Cornelison.

Romeo, played by Rafael Ruiz, dances with Juliet, played by Kazmiera Tarshis, at the masquerade ball and as they start dancing, they instantly fall in love with each other. Photo used with permission from Holly Cornelison.

Namrata Ramani

A production performed in the round offers a unique experience for the audience

Although the production of “Romeo and Juliet” may seem like nothing special, as the play has been done a countless number of times in other high schools and students have all read it in their freshman year literature classes, MV Theater Arts manages to keep the audience at the edge of their seats with the special set.

Audience members get to view the play in the round in the black box, where the audience is seated in a circular orientation and the play is performed all around them. The audience is “in the action” and feels as if they are a part of the play. Fight scenes come to life and death scenes bring the viewers to the brink of tears.

Romeo, played by junior Rafael Ruiz, is a tireless romantic who is on a journey to find the woman of his dreams. At a masquerade ball, he meets Juliet, played by senior Kazmiera Tarshis and they instantly fall in love, but they are both from feuding families — the Montagues and the Capulets. The star-crossed lovers must sneak around to meet each other and hide from their family and friends who do not approve of their love.

Romeo, played by junior Rafael Ruiz, dances with Juliet, played by senior Kazmiera Tarshis, at the masquerade ball and as they start dancing, they instantly fall in love with each other. Photo used with permission from Holly Cornelison.

Though the play stays true to the original story, the raw emotion comes to life during the production, contrary to when reading the play. When Romeo finds out that Mercutio was killed by Tybalt, his anger can be sensed by the whole audience. When Juliet finds out that her parents found her a suitor and that she’s getting married in a few days, her sadness permeates throughout the room.

The emotional acting is supported by the special set. The production in the round offers the audience a prime opportunity to be in the action. Scenes take place behind different parts of the audience to keep the audience alert and attentive. Rapiers and swords may get up close and personal with an audience member and the dead bodies of the characters can be lying at viewer’s feet. The set also has a charming balcony, which replicates the classic balcony scene in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Though a show in the round provides a unique show experience for the audience, one drawback is the fact that only a limited amount of people can view each show, contrary to the ample seating in the auditorium. Certain seating areas in the round also require the audience members to turn around completely, as scenes can be right behind them. Nonetheless, the small stage creates a cozy atmosphere and immerses the audience in the plot.

The MV Theatre Arts production of “Romeo and Juliet” stays close to its traditional roots, but the unique and immersive experience is a fresh take on the classic and well worth the price of admission.

Homage to the original Shakespeare plays, the drama department conducted a green show in between the two plays, completing the “Shakesperience.” However, unlike previous years, this year’s green show was a series of short comedic segments, interspersed with the traditional dancing. The green show opened with the eight cast members quoting Shakespearian sayings – laughing stock, in a pickle, heart of gold – that are commonly used today. This short intermission offered the audience cathartic relief and served as the perfect transition to the next play.

A contemporary transition

In contrast to a lighter “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet” shows the raw, dark emotions of a young, Danish prince faced with loss and betrayal.

Junior Michael Goldman, who played Hamlet, superbly showcases the inner turmoil his character faces. Hamlet, after the death of his father, the King of Denmark, is told by his father’s spirit that his uncle Claudius, played by senior Grant Menon, has murdered him. Incidentally, Claudius marries Hamlet’s mother Queen Gertrude, senior Samantha Camillieri, and assumes the Danish throne. Along with best friend Horatio, played by senior Dania Khurshid, Hamlet strives to avenge his father’s death and as a result, outcasts himself from society.

While the decision to modernize “Hamlet” was a risk the drama department took, it ultimately paid off. The modern costumes and props strike a balance with the original dialogue and setting. The scattering of modern puns add comic relief – pop-culture jokes contrast the somber undertones.

Throughout the play, Hamlet is the epitome of teenage angst. While his problems remain kingly, his emotions of anger and revenge are universal and speak directly to audience. In this rendition, Hamlet’s robes are switched to a Superman shirt and his sword is  traded for a gun, providing a light, modern touch to an otherwise dark story.

Of course, what is Shakespeare without love? Hamlet’s love interest, Ophelia, played by sophomore Rebecca Kao, reveals the complexities of teenage romance. Her drastic transition from a giggling adolescent to a heartbroken, slightly-crazed woman motivates the audience to grieve along with her.

The minimalistic, yet intimate seating in the round – a new venture for the drama department – allows the audience to get up close and personal with the actors and places them in the center of action. This change in seating is especially powerful during the appearances of the spirit – sinister music fills the black box while the actors stride in and out of the theater. Furthermore, the careful placement of lighting and the occasional dramatic spotlight intensifies the scene.

In the final scene, the Hamlet cast ditches their guns and reverts to traditional sword fighting showdown, summing up the play’s blending of contemporary and traditional elements.

The ultimate Shakesperience promised by MV Theater Arts was a promise well kept. The seamless transition from a traditional to a contemporary production made the night well worth the price and proved to be a great experience for audience members of all ages.