ROMEO AND JULIET (Curio): A same-sex take on Shakespeare’s classic

The world’s most famous love story is given a new twist by Curio Theatre Company, with a same-sex version of Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET. The familiar characters are now the teenaged daughters of the feuding Montague and Capulet families, whose tragic romance is used in Curio’s production to explore the true universality of Shakespeare’s themes, and to consider the issues of hidden love and forbidden marriage in light of the Supreme Court’s ban on DOMA.

Isa St. Clair as Juliet and Rachel Gluck as Romeo in Curio’s ROMEO AND JULIET (Photo credit: Rebecca Miglionico)

Isa St. Clair as Juliet and Rachel Gluck as Romeo in Curio Theatre Company’s ROMEO AND JULIET. (Photo credit: Rebecca Miglionico)

To underscore the present-day relevance of the story, Curio’s costumes and set design are post-modern urban, and the seating arrangement in the theater incorporates the audience as guests in the scenes for an up-close and personal experience. In her impactful directorial debut, Krista Apple-Hodge reinforces the intimate contemporary interpretation by setting a quick pace for the action and dialogue, often employing the device of direct address; her adept cast keeps up with the rapid-fire delivery and fully engages us in its audience interactions. The adapted script maintains Shakespeare’s original language, changing only a few pronouns to reflect the new gender-bent casting, with the violent antagonists Romeo and Tybalt here re-imagined as female, and Lady Capulet’s character conflated with that of her husband (Lord Capulet does not appear in this production), so that a matriarch dominates Juliet’s family.

Rachel Gluck (Romeo) and Isa St. Clair (Juliet) bring a youthful sense of joy and abandon to the lesbian lovers, as the innocent Juliet discovers her blossoming sexuality with the more experienced Romeo, they defy their kinsmen’s hatred, and relish their secret relationship. Colleen Hughes is convincingly callous and street-tough as Tybalt, and Aetna Gallagher is a powerhouse as Lady Capulet, as she delivers the fiery speech (written for Lord Capulet) denouncing her daughter for rejecting the betrothal she arranged for her (to a man). Also outstanding is Eric Scotolati as Mercutio—sarcastic and oversexed, then angry and impassioned, as the lively humor emphasized in Act I suddenly turns deadly. October 3-November 2, 2013, curiotheatre.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.