Theater Spotlight: After Juliet

Blythe M. Davis

The notion of a sequel to Romeo and Juliet, on the face of things, seems mightily improbable, what with our doomed young lovers having dispatched themselves via poison and the knife. But Sharman Macdonald's script makes a tidy case for caring about the aftermath for the Montagues and Capulets, particularly whether they will indulge their multigenerational proclivity for hastening one another's trip to the afterlife. The evening begins with a 10-minute wordless recap of the original story, with Romeo (John T. Zeiler) and Juliet (Rachael Davies) going gaga for each other, to the general consternation of both their families, then heading down the familiar road of murder, ruin, and suicide (Andrea Alioto provides suitably romantic choreography). The world continues to turn afterward, in this telling, and we're primarily preoccupied with Juliet's cousin Rosaline (Anika Taylor), still carrying a heavy torch for Romeo and generally disdainful of Juliet's penchant for self-centered drama. Complicating Rosaline's romantic fixation on a dead man is her status as object of obsessive affection for Benvolio (Bryan Grosso), who clearly wants to set aside the family feud in favor of some lovin'. Rosaline not only disdains Benvolio (on the surface anyway), she also covets the leadership of her family with the intention of rekindling hostilities with the Montague clan and generally dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. Director Claire Avitabile has assembled a young and aggressive cast of 14 here, and the show evinces clear affection for Macdonald's slangy dialogue and unapologetic sentimentality (Rosaline berates her dead cousin while Juliet listens from the ether). The trouble here is the lack of a center of gravity: What emerges has the feel of a series of subplots that don't cohere into a purposeful whole. Taylor's bitterness as Rosaline recounts her many wrongs is sharp, but later when she's called on to rally her family to war, her bloodlust feels perfunctory. Whatever connection is implied here between hunger for violence and carnal lust is only tangential and half-formed. Even so, the evening is nearly won on the strength of passion alone, not to mention a brief but wicked burst of swordplay. Make love not war, you might even say. $12-$15. 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sun. Theater Or at Sabes JCC, 4330 S. Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis; 612.227.1188. Through Sunday

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