“Of Juliet and her Romeo” puts a new spin on a classic tale as Kirk Haas of Inkster presents an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” on two local stages, focusing on the love story, and casting Benvolio as a young woman.
The show runs 8 p.m. March 13, 14, 20 and 21, and 2 p.m. March 15 and 22 at Barefoot Productions, 240 N. Main St. in Plymouth, and 8 p.m. March 27 and 28 and 2:30 p.m. March 29 at the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
For tickets and more information for the Plymouth run, call 734-560-1493 or go to justgobarefoot.com. For the Dearborn run, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.
Cast members include Dearborn residents Timothy J. Smith, 20, as Romeo; Maddie Kaplan, 15, as Juliet; Scout Greimel, 14, as Benvolio; and Kyle Tilman, 20, as County Paris.
Also Victor Walbridge of Ann Arbor as Friar Laurence; Christine Kapusky Moore of Canton Township as Lady Capulet; Inkster residents Kirk Haas as the Prologue, Prince Escalus, and Apothecary, Valerie Haas as the Nurse, and Cole Haas, 13, as Peter; and Mark Ripper of Northville Township as Lord Capulet.
Kirk Haas set the play in 1910, the Edwardian era, and uses ragtime music in the party scene to establish the period.
He said that for every great love story, there is a love triangle.
“In every teenage heart, there is that moment of having to help your friend find someone else,” he said. “What I wanted to do is take Romeo’s best friend and make him a her, and make her fall in love with her best friend. And who hasn’t fallen in love with their best friend?”
Haas said the heartache of losing unrequited love, coupled with the request to help them find someone else, is an emotional ordeal for many teens. In order to portray that, he felt Benvolio worked better as a female.
By focusing on the love story, Haas said he eliminated the swashbuckling moments that the purists love, but he is using Shakespeare’s words, and he has not created any new lines for the characters.
“I edited down,” Haas said. “Whatever action I eliminated by removing a scene, that action is expressed in word by another character in a later scene, which is true in the original play. There really is no need to add in that explanation. It was already there.”
Haas said the show is not a watered down version of the original.
“This is a version that is more succinctly connected to Romeo and Juliet – mostly Juliet – and how she would see it happening in real time,” Haas said. “So by eliminating certain scenes, we discovered these things as Juliet discovers them.
“So all I am doing is taking Will’s play and looking into the soul of one or two characters and allowing them to talk to us directly.”
Haas urges theatergoers to see the show for the chance to hear Romeo and Juliet in a manner that allows one to stay abreast and keep pace with the action, and not get lost, and allow you to hear the story told in a manner easier to understand, and without the swashbuckling side of the show.
“It’s more focusing on the tragedy, the plight, and the poetic words of Will Shakespeare,” Haas said.
Kaplan said she loves playing Juliet, but the role changes without Mercutio or Tybalt, and with the story seen through Romeo and Juliet’s eyes, without any background context.
“I really like playing Juliet, because it’s different from what I have played before,” she said. “It gives you a character that can describe more, feel more.”
Greimel, who plays Benvolio as a young woman, said she has never been the type to carry on about an unrequited love, so she is basing her character’s behavior on what she has observed among her friends.
“She is a tomboy, but she is also a typical heartbroken teenage girl,” Greimel said. “Putting those together is fun at times.”
She said her character is more of a best friend who is always there for Romeo, and really close to him overall, almost like a sister, but not quite.
“It adds a three-way relationship where there is unrequited love, as well as Paris’ unrequited love,” Greimel said. “It adds more to the story because it is thinking about it in a different way and adding a different perspective – not just the whole ‘we fell in love in one day.’ It’s thinking about the people who get left behind.”
Wallbridge said he has a different perspective on Shakespearean plays, having taught them as a teacher, but never acting in one. He is now an attorney, and said there is some credence to the supposition that lawyers are smart actors.
“It helps enormously,” he said. “Frankly, a bunch of 13-year-olds, on Monday morning at 8 a.m., is an awful lot like a jury.”
Wallbridge said the feminization of Benvolio’s role reflects more of the openness in today’s society.
“It is a bit ribald, but at the same time, it is much more reflective of a more modern consciousness about things,” he said.
He said he always felt the romance was one of the more interesting compelling parts of the story.
“I think cutting (the play) down is not only a good strategic decision, it’s a good artistic decision, and it is a good dramatic decision,” Wallbridge said, “It strips it down and gets down to the bare essentials of the theme.”
HILBERRY PRESENTS ‘AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE’
Arthur Miller’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play “An Enemy of the People” at 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre, and runs in rotating repertory through March 28.
The opening show will include an announcement of the 2015-16 season.
The story follows two brothers in a town dependent upon their medicinal baths. When one, a doctor, discovers what might be pollution in the baths, he wants to shut them down and fix them, but his brother the mayor wants to delay, research and gather more evidence before cutting off the town’s lifeblood.
The brothers go head-to-head in a passionate confrontation that pits ethics against political concerns.
For tickets and more information, call 313-577-2972, or go to theatre.wayne.edu.