In “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare captures young kids in love as well as anyone can capture them. And that, says John Gulley, is why the play still resonates with modern audiences.

“It still works,” says Gulley, theater instructor and director of UNCG Theatre’s new production of the Bard’s tragic classic. “Shakespeare has given us such a pallet that you can look at from so many different angles, and set in so many different times and places, and it still works. It’s like getting a new take on an old friend. It’s still all about these angsty teenage lovers caught up in a maelstrom of sorts.”

“Romeo and Juliet” runs Feb. 15-24 in Taylor Theatre on campus — just after Valentine’s Day. Gulley promises a “cool, hip” rendering set in a slightly futuristic world of high fashion.

Contemporary audiences are more accepting of non-traditional productions of Shakespeare than were audiences of 15 or 20 years ago, Gulley says. “It helps when you give audiences, especially young audiences, a hook, a sort of visual vocabulary they can understand. And that visual vocabulary leads them to the poetry of the play’s language without them even realizing they’re hearing high poetry.”

Gulley describes his setting as “2013-plus.” The high-fashion embraced by the characters reflects visually the chaotic breakdown after Act II, as tension between their families, misunderstandings and unlucky synchronicities destroy the young lovers.

“The two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, compete by way of fashion,” he says. “In the first two acts, everyone is well put-together. As the play falls apart, they lose their ability to keep themselves together fashion-wise.”

To further emphasize this ensuing chaos after Act II, Gulley has chosen to stage some scenes simultaneously as the tragedy escalates and the play fractures. Of course, in the end, a desolate quiet ensues.

The surviving characters are “metaphorically naked and psychologically fragile,” he says, and yet somehow “more human” than their kempt but shallow former selves.

As Gulley puts it, “Even in the tragedy, hopefully the audience will walk away in awe of the power of love.”

See “Romeo and Juliet” at 8 p.m. Feb. 15, 16, 22 and 23; 2 p.m. Feb. 16, 17 and 24; and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, 20, and 21. School matinees play at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 19-22.

Tickets are $18 for adults; $15 for seniors and non-UNCG students; $12 for UNCG alumni and groups of 10 or more; and $7 for UNCG students. Call 336-334-4849 or visit boxoffice.uncg.edu for advance tickets, or buy them one hour prior to the performance in the Taylor Theatre lobby.

 

By Michelle Hines