Shakespeare's classic romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet is, like, totally rad when set in the 1980s, as Shakespeare Dallas has chosen to do right now.
The tale of teen angst and first love feels that much more epic when big emotions are matched by even bigger hair, plus a hard-rocking selection of tunes spanning Bonnie Tyler to Metallica to Michael Jackson.
Director Jenni Stewart entertainingly uses the era to magnify aspects of character and story that usually blend into one big Renaissance blur.
In this Verona, shoulder-padded maternal figures hold glasses of wine while doing step aerobics. Mulleted hooligans in tight-rolled jeans breakdance in the streets before biting their thumbs at long-sworn enemies. And a preppy suitor looks almost certain to become a stockbroker, touting "greed is good" while building up his yuppie status and showing off his trophy wife.
Korey Kent's delightful costumes encapsulate all that was wild and weird about the decade, from parachute pants to a spot-on recreation of Madonna's "Like A Virgin" outfit from the MTV VMAs in 1984.
The heroine wearing that is, of course, the 13-year-old Juliet, coquettishly played by Kristen Lazarchick. She's typically joined at the hip with her Nurse (Constance Gold Parry, glorious in a scarlet wig and even brighter personality), while her long-locked Romeo (Nick Marchetti) pals around with his cousin Mercutio and friend Benvolio.
This is the first time I have seen these secondary characters — Benvolio, Mercutio, and the Nurse — steal the show. While Parry flits around the stage like the cool aunt on her third wine cooler, Marcus Stimac and Marti Etheridge channel Bill and Ted in their speeches and shenanigans.
Stimac, especially, holds the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre audience in his hand during the famous Queen Mab speech, adding a Van Halen vibe to the poetic description of fairies and dreams.
When his untimely end comes right before intermission (it's not a spoiler when the show is more than 400 years old, okay?), those of us watching are just as heartbroken as Romeo, who immediately takes his revenge by stabbing the culprit, Tybalt (Nicole Berastequi in Pat Benatar leather and bangs).
Adding a bit of yoga guru to the mix is Adrian Godinez as Friar Lawrence, playing up the natural healer persona and adding a bit of earthiness to all the rhinestone-studded chaos swirling around him.
A graffiti'd, multi-layered set from Jeffrey Schmidt gives the actors a neon-hued playground to run, climb, and jump around on, complete with a clever twist on the famous balcony. Aaron Johansen's vibrant lights can turn somber in an instant, projecting a great metaphor for the colorful '80s and its less-glamorous underbelly.
Ultimately, this tale of woe feels more approachable with leg warmers than it does with ruffs — just don't think about how the '80s was 40 years ago.
Shakespeare Dallas' production of Romeo & Juliet plays at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre through October 16.