Don’t be dissuaded by the perception that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a sappy romance. SF Ballet’s action-packed rendition tells the renowned story in a fresh way, but only for the next five days.
We all know the gist of the story – young Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight in Verona, yet their affection is strictly forbidden thanks to their historically feuding families (the Montagues and the Capulets). Refusing to let obstacles stand in the way of their intense adoration, the couple takes matters into their own hands.
SF Ballet’s performance is chock full of impressive scenes, many of which take place in the Public Square. The action-filled opener leads up to a dramatic sword fight between members of both clans, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The male company engages in swordplay multiple times during the three acts, and the choreography with which they gracefully leap and twirl while concurrently wielding sharp weapons is mind-blowing.
The Public Square has everything you would imagine in medieval times - entertaining court jesters, promiscuous tramps, the men they entice, and the catfights that ensue as a result. The vibe is playful and relaxed as few dancers are on pointe and most cavort with their hair down. Romeo’s wingman, Mercutio, especially shines in these scenes – he’s expressive and playful and his incessant provoking of Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, is hilarious. The guy is one hell of a dancer.
Juliet really comes into her element in the third act with her defiance of her parents and their arranged marriage. When distraught, the petite Juliet is passionate and energetic, and her yearning for long lost love is angst-ridden. Her duets with Romeo are sexy and beautiful, their tangible affection obvious.
The flowing feudal costumes are gorgeous, and the set and lighting are grand (and the set changes, absolutely seamless). Another highlight was the music. Prokofiev’s evocative score saturates each scene, balancing the delicate, innocent love story with the heavy tension of fighting kin and the heartbreak of death.
Go see it.
Romeo & Juliet plays through March 11 at the War Memorial, 401 Van Ness Ave (at Grove). Get tickets here.