Romeo & Juliet: A “Dramedy” To Remember

1510 words - 7 pages

During the English Renaissance, William Shakespeare, wrote plays within three distinct genres: tragedy, comedy, and history. While his historical plays occasionally borrow dramatic elements from his tragedies, Shakespeare set a clear division between the lighthearted ambiance found in A Midsummer Night's Dream and the heart wrenching despair that pervades Hamlet. However, Folger Theatre has cleared this divide with fervor. Romeo & Juliet, a play that was once the epitome of tragic theatre, is no longer pigeonholed to the tight confines of tragedy in regards to mood and tone. While the original dialogue and themes are unchanged, and the show is still classically categorized as a tragedy, the first act of Folger’s adaptation plays out like a comedy, with lively characterizations not typically recognized in the original text. Then, the second act reverts to the highly anticipated misery, starkly reminding audiences that the show is, indeed, a tragedy. This sharp, sudden transformation of tone has earned the production the title of “dramedy.” Romeo & Juliet successfully brews an atmosphere where laughter and sorrow can coexist, an environment that the Bard could not have anticipated.
The plot of Shakespeare’s original play remains untouched in Folger’s adaptation; Romeo & Juliet is still a story of star-crossed lovers, whose secret romance defies the heinous conflict that plagues their respective families and ultimately ends with the couple’s demise. But while the plot itself is unchanged, the speed at which the plot progresses is streamlined and accelerated. As scenic designer Megan Raham described, there is in the show a driving force that continuously advances the plot. This forward momentum is achieved by using multiple parts of the stage simultaneously. As the play progresses, multiple scenes take place onstage consecutively. One scene could be unfolding center stage, while a separate scene occurs in the balcony; then, at the same time, a third scene could be developing backstage, which is visible due to the lack of curtains, or on the forestage that leads into the house. The simultaneous scene progression is exemplified when Romeo and Mercutio are walking the streets and Lord Capulet enters from backstage, instantly transforming stage right into the Capulet household. This method of plot advancement creates seamless transitions from scene to scene. It also helps to formulate the contrasting moods and tones of Act I and Act II.
While the first acts proceeds quickly and with a surprising amount of blithe, taking full advantage of the consecutive scene paradigm, the second act slows down considerably, as the play transforms from a hopeful love story to the forlorn tale of loss. Each scene in the second act is fueled by raw emotion and lingers uncomfortably, thereby highlighting the gravity of the tragic elements. Few, if any, scenes in the second act happen consecutively. The opening of act two, where Juliet sits alone onstage, contemplating...

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