A Massachusetts Interlude

Posted by Kristin Hall on 7/24/2017

We interrupt this report of theatre in New York to blog about some theatre in the Boston area!  I just did the Romeo and Juliet double:  West Side Story presented by the Weston Drama Workshop on Saturday, and Romeo and Juliet presented by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on Sunday.

Many of you will already know that West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet, and it was really fun to see them on consecutive days and to think about the parallels.  WSS has such incredible music (written by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), the music sets the mood for the story - all the emotions of the story are heightened by the music.  For R&J Shakespeare uses words and poetry to heighten the emotion.  And of course, the performers bring it to life! 

The Weston Drama Workshop performance featured a cast of teenagers, including recent Lincoln graduate Max Borden as one of the Jets!  Their performance was wonderful, with outstanding singing, dancing and acting.  They had a great set, with pieces that folded in or out to indicate different locations (that got me thinking ...), and it was really fun to see what can be done with a large number of theater lights.  Weston Drama Workshop puts on a number of shows each summer, both plays and musicals, with actors from rising fifth grade and up.  A number of Lincoln students have acted there, and it is a great place to see theatre in the summer.

The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company produces a Shakespeare play every summmer, and performs at a specially built stage on the Boston Common.  The shows are free (though they do request donations), and audience members come with folding chairs, blankets and picnics.  The cast is all professional actors.  Most or all of the speaking roles are played by members of Actors' Equity Association (the union for stage actors and stage managers), but they also have ensemble members who are younger adult actors/college students.  The ensemble played the citizens of Verona, and were much more integrated than in any production of R&J that I have seen in recent memory; it really brought home the idea that the fighting between these two families was affecting the whole city.  Although I know the play well, this was also the first full-length version I have seen for a while, and it was wonderful to hear the full version of each speech and conversation.  Shakespeare's words are witty, evocative, thought-provoking and lyrical, and these performers (with the guidance of their director, I'm sure!), really brought the words to life.  The play runs through August 6th.

But I admit that as I was watching, a part of my brain was remembering the Lincoln School production of Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive!) at Last, and fondly remembering what a great job our middle school actors did with the same play!