AN AMERICAN ROMEO & JULIET
JULES AT PROMENADE PLAYHOUSE
Produced by Clubred Productions, and playing at the Promenade Playhouse is Hawley Anderson’s Jules. An inspired re-telling of the Romeo and Juliet story that places our star-cross’d lovers in modern day America, Jules deftly couples the difficult sectarian politics of Vienna and its urtext’s classic familial rivalries, with present-day issues to produce a story that is at once moving and poignant.
Told through the eyes of the female namesake and in the very American setting that is Kansas City, Jules reveals similar forces influencing the lives of today’s youth as those of Shakespeare’s time. Parents and their children lock horns over issues such as curfews, choice of friends, and the opinions of those in the community, but there is a decidedly modern, American dilemma lurking beneath the surface.
Ajay Satpute stars as Rahim, Jules’ teenage lover, who also happens to be Muslim, providing a topical point of contention for her family and community. Ajay is consistent and powerful, balancing restrained rage with sublime compassion towards his love interest. Juliana Moreno is the title character, a beautiful actress who channels the frustrations of youth with the added pressures of a repressive culture that forces its citizens to take a position on issues that should be addressed individually. Instead, notions of patriotism and allegiance have been perverted, and the community depicted is of a particular brand of neo-conservatives with a habit of witch hunting born of infectious paranoia.
While issues of patriotism, how it’s defined, and who does the defining are predominant themes, the love story is ultimately what prevails, and in so doing, the production is a success. The additional players are reliable and believable, even in instances when dramatic necessity dictates exaggerated dialogue. Hawley Anderson’s adaptation is smart and efficient. He updates the traditional story with a sense of contemporary realism, while recognizing the timeless themes that have made these famed “star-cross’d lovers” such an oft-explored topic.
Promenade Playhouse is located at 1404 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica; for tickets, call (310) 656-8070.