Nowhere in the script does it call for an all-cast, three-number dance scene, and yet there one was in the first act of Romeo and Juliet, a glorious Motown dance party in fair Verona. Shakespeare's script also doesn't specify that Mercutio should gradually break down into hysterical fear while delivering his "Queen Mab" speech on the nature of dreams, nor should all the murders be committed with one peripatetic switchblade that always seems to kill the person who last wielded it, and yet these decisions added immensely to the cohesive and powerfully human production staged by director Chris Anthony. Anthony's placement of the familiar tale in the inner city of late-1960s St. Louis was a neat trick, but it was her attention to the humanity of the characters that made the evening shine. The "universality of Shakespeare" is a well-worn lesson in high schools across America, but Anthony actually delivered on that old chestnut by paying attention to the context of all those famous speeches. These were people we knew and understood, behaving foolishly and cruelly and impetuously at wild parties, in bloody street fights and in bedrooms. It was real life, albeit delivered in a stately iambic pentameter. There was no doubt that two teenagers fell in love and made horrible decisions, just as their parents' example taught them to do. And it was glorious.
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