By John Thomas Staff Writer
“Romeo and Juliet” is as much a part of the American educational canon as “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Huckleberry Finn”. It’s not just the story that opens our minds to Shakespeare, but often times it is used as a gateway to the realm of academic literature. As su
ch, it makes sense for the play to be contemporized, or even distorted, to reach this end. In that way, “This Bud of Love: A one-hour Adaption of Romeo and Juliet” morphs its source to great success. It’s a production designed to introduce high school students into the world of Shakespeare, and for all extents and purposes it does just that. It may seem odd, but the part of the play that I believe was meant to be that which most explicitly connected it to a younger audience did anything but. When I saw the crew drag out a slide, a picnic table, and a swing set, I began to dread my assignment. I’m not against
bringing an old production out of its anachronism by updating the costumes, props, and such, however this set seemed to be a cheap, brazenly blunt way to highlight the show’s dramatic conflict. I understand the thematic reasoning for setting “Romeo an
d Juliet” on a playground, but I don’t believe that such a choice evidences any wit on the part of whoever’s idea that choice was. That being said, I don’t think the set took too much away. Well, except for the very beginning where most of the characters particip
ated in a number that seemed to be born out of an off-Broadway, poorly choreographed “STOMP”. The only other point I really took issue with was the amount of Harry Potter allusions. My problem isn’t really with their existence, as much as that they were performed with a degree of pretension, and the expectation of laughs. I just wish, with all of my heart and soul, that all writers would understand that a pop culture reference isn’t inherently cunning. It can be humorous, or even ingenious, but not on its own without any context. That being said, the set and the spat of pop culture references were the only blights on an otherwise enjoyable hour of Shakespeare. The cast was on point, especially Rita McCann as Juliet, and Jesse Eberl as Mercutio among others. I was especially delighted by their portrayals of their respective deaths, as they seemed wholly in earnest, with a deft touch of sincere sorrow. In all honesty, there wasn’t really a single performance that merits criticism. For the most part, “This Bud” was constructed well. The scenes that were cut were logical, and I think that what remained would allow any attentive high school underclassperson to have a rich discussion about “Romeo and Juliet” through a variety of critical perspectives.