by Katherine Agard
Bill Grace’s production of Romeo and Juliet -- running through Dec. 11 at the Loeb Ex -- is set in a world where bored teenagers smoke weed on swings and have sex on a jungle gym. In fact, the set is a playground.
To be clear: The set is a playground. It’s not set in a playground. The multiple levels of the set function as they normally would – the upper balcony, the bedroom and the chapel as locations are unaltered. But when Juliet trundles down the steps heady with love, we’re reminded of the fact that, despite her poetic language, she still needs Nurse as her babysitter. Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio are bros drinking on the playground at night. We can just imagine that they’ve stolen that vodka and are going to climb through a window just before curfew.
Then after the deaths, the swings move ever so slightly, and we are reminded of childhood lost and corrupted. This adds up to a series of incredibly nuanced performances. The text has been re-interpreted to give a dark take on the lives of wealthy adolescents of today.
Full disclosure: This play almost made me cry at several moments. And it’s Romeo and Juliet: Everyone knows what happens! I rarely make outright endorsements but this was most definitely one of the best productions I've seen in a while.