ROMEO & JULIET AT ARTS/WORKS THEATRE
Director Joe Regalbuto (Murphy Brown) brings his vision to the forefront and makes one of the better incarnations of Romeo & Juliet by the prolific Bard. The actual text doesn’t change, but the actors freely recite their lines of woe and lovelorn loss while wearing Levi jeans and an American Apparel T-shirt. The city of Verona moves to California in present time, Juliet rocks out to an iPod, and the Capulets’ guard is in a LAPD uniform, wearing dark shades and a blue tooth. In the beginning, Romeo (Matty Ferraro) exhaustingly expresses his love for Rosaline to his friends Mercutio (Shaun Baker) and Benvolio (Greg Coughlin) for the millionth time.
All that quickly changes when the young men crash the Capulet party—disguised by wearing rubber masks of former presidents Reagan and Bush—and Ro immediately falls for Juliet (Gina Regalbuto).
From there, it’s pretty much downhill: Lord Capulet (Christian Lebano) auctions his daughter off to Paris (Jason Frost) in perfect business transaction fashion, Juliet marries Romeo in secret, “mourns” her cousin Tybalt’s (West Liang) death at the hands of her new husband, and because Romeo didn’t get the memo from Friar John (Max Swanson) about Juliet’s notorious plan, the doomed lovers commit suicide.
During this entire ruckus, the action and energetic characters keep the story’s momentum streaming effortlessly. Baker’s Mercutio is a fly-sexy pimp daddy who wears his swagger with finesse. He confronts the belligerent Tybalt in a fight with a warrior’s spirit. Liang has excessive fun playing the vindictive, angry soldier. Even Joshua Wolf Coleman as the benevolent Friar Lawrence has his moments to shine.
Exuding the innocence and inviting appeal that Claire Danes lacked in the 1996 movie adaptation, Gina Regalbuto’s portrayal of Juliet is the perfect combination of sweetness and sensuality. She becomes coquettish with Romeo when they first meet and in the famous balcony scene, then her demeanor quickly changes into an experienced, sultry lover—at 15, no less—when they come together to consummate their love.
Regalbuto and Ferraro are what Romeo & Juliet should be all about: passionate, loving, and willing to die for their love, literally. Ferraro, who looks like a model for Enyce, conveys the intensity a man has for his woman.
Their love for each other is incredible and convincing. Director Regalbuto executed the true version of how this Shakespearian classic was meant to be seen.
Arts/Works Theatre is located at 6569 Santa Monica Blvd; for tickets cal (323) 960-7846