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Bishop Ireton Tries to Shake the Shakesfear in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Elizabeth Movius, a student at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, reviews a modern day revival of "Romeo and Juliet," by Bishop Ireton High.

The night after a wild party, Mercutio and Benvolio stagger on stage, nursing hangovers with . . . Starbucks? As odd as that sounds, that was just one way that Bishop Ireton High School blended the modern with the Elizabethan in an effort to cure the audience of "Shakesfear: the unexplainable paranoia that no matter how hard you try . . . you will never 'get' Shakespeare." The actors stayed true to the original Shakespearean dialogue, but mixed iPods, Razor scooters, tennis rackets and designer clothing with sword fights, friars and poison.

Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is the classic tale of star-crossed lovers; it is set in Verona, Italy, where there are two warring families: the Capulets and the Montagues. Romeo, a Montague, meets Juliet, a Capulet, at a party and immediately falls in love with her and she with him. He climbs into the Capulet garden after the party and she speaks to him from her balcony; they proclaim their love and decide to get married. The sequence of events that follows their tryst ultimately ends in their deaths and the deaths of several of their family members.

James Robertson played Romeo with thoughtfulness, understanding of his lines and vocal expression. Celine Daubresse played Juliet with enthusiasm, believability and the excitability of a young girl.

Although some characters did not seem to understand what they were saying and why, Mercutio (Andrew Ferguson) and Benvolio (Jake Gaudet) never seemed to encounter that problem. They had excellent chemistry and provided comic relief to the tense show. Another notable performer was Juliet's Nurse (Emilia Lynch). The chemistry among her, Juliet and Lady Capulet (Emily O'Connell) was wonderful; they played off each other well and understood exactly what they were saying. Both of these sets of actors frequently had the audience laughing out loud at their antics and banter.

The set, designed by Molly Patterson, Julia Bowman, Clara Candor and Samantha Scalsky, was well-made and successfully captured the feel of a street in Italy. The costumes were also very creative; most of the actors were dressed in modern clothing that reflected the character's personality and social standing. On the whole, the technical aspects of the show were creative and well-executed, with the exception of a few late light cues and some scenes that were a bit dimly lit.

Although the second act lacked the energy of the first, the actors kept at it and were able to convey to the audience the deeper message of Romeo and Juliet - that hate is destructive and grudges are not worth keeping. After all, as Shakespeare said, "these violent delights have violent ends."

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 18, 2008; 12:50 PM ET
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