- Romeo & Juliet
The Classic Theatre set its Romeo & Julietin the US/Mexico borderlands, drawing on the theater's location in San Antonio, Texas, to explore the cultural and political conflicts shaping the region. Its set design, casting, and interspersed Spanish dialogue evoked local contexts and offered a critique of US President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies, particularly his pledge to "build a wall" on the border. From the mariachi music blaring pre-show to the intermittent use of Spanish, the production engaged with the local community, even inviting audience members to contribute chalk graffiti to the walls in the lobby. In this setting, the feud between the Mexican Capulets and the American Montagues took on deep cultural significance.
The design team created a set that powerfully conveyed local contexts. The top level of the sparse set included a splatter of rainbow chalk reminiscent of the spray paint that often adorns low riders and mural walls [End Page 287]alike on the West Side of San Antonio. Graffiti covered the walls with prejudiced slogans such as "Mexicans, go home!" as well as rallying cries such as "¡Sí se puede!" Trash can lids and simple wooden black boxes were repositioned to transition between scenes and to augment the graceful, well-orchestrated fight choreography. Flags bearing composite imagery from the US and Mexican flags were draped over the lovers' bodies at the close of the play.
The real delight of the production, however, was the outstanding cast. The Classic Theatre works with the Actors' Equity Association to offer contracts to AEA members, so the cast was composed of both local and invited talent. Director Joe Goscinski retained the majority of Shakespeare's text, with the production running nearly three and a half hours. This choice illuminated the political dynamics surrounding Romeo and Juliet's love story and also highlighted the depth and complexity of Juliet's character. Alyx Gonzales was highly skilled and brought a multilayered dynamism to the role, moving adeptly from energetic ingenue to grieving cousin to resolved widow. The Nurse (Donna Provencher) and Lady Capulet (Christina Casella) also played especially well off one another in their extended scenes together. Other stand-out performances by women in the cast included the gender-swapped Benvolio (Laura Boyd) and Friar Lawrence (Carolyn Dellinger), each bringing a remarkable and enthusiastic perspective to the often-paternalistic world of Verona.
Many of the actors played dual roles throughout, but the most striking transformation was Gabriel Maldonado's shift from Tybalt to Paris, a stunning contrast from headstrong to humble that highlighted vulnerability as an important contrast to hypermasculinity in this production. Also of note, though, was the production's exploitation of Shakespeare's bawdiness, on full display in graphic exchanges between Benvolio, a larger-than-life Mercutio (Nick Lawson), and an awkwardly charming Romeo (Josh Davis), reminding us that the love-lust connection of the star-crossed lovers plays out amidst the particular thickness of teenage hormones. Juliet and Romeo spent an ample amount of time rolling around the stage in passionate embrace.
Its engagement with border politics and culture aligned Goscinski's production with a body of recent Shakespeare productions that have foregrounded Latinx themes, identities, and languages. Romeo and Juliethas figured prominently in this tradition, beginning with the 1957 musical West Side Storyand extending to recent productions by The Old Globe (San Diego, 2008), the New Brunswick Theater Festival (2010), Shakespeare on the Rocks (El Paso, 2015), and...