Arts & Entertainment

MCHS drama deparment revives ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in pandemic wake

Capture of a fierce battle between Tybalt and Mercutio (Photo: Brett Brucklacher)

by Maitri Rane, staff writter

After almost two hectic years of distance learning, the Maria Carrillo High School Drama Department puts on a Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet in the upper quad. Opening night was on Sept. 17, and the other three performances followed on Sept. 22, 24, and 25 with the performance on the 18th being rescheduled to the 22nd due to a rainout.

The show kicked off with the cast arranged beautifully across the steps of the outdoor stage in front of the Performing Arts Center, giving the crowd their first long look at the characters they would follow for the next two hours. It was an organized and elegant way to begin. The scenery was simple—long banners draped from the roof along the face of the building behind the stage and some streamers—but also attractively delicate. The ‘90s soundtrack that would accompany the action throughout kicked off in the first scene. The Prologue, delivered by MCHS junior Gus Cromwell’s Prince Escalus, was very helpful for the watchers who weren’t already familiar with Romeo and Juliet, making the play welcoming and enticing to the audience from the beginning. 

One of the strongest aspects of this play was the acting—performances were exquisite. The level of memorization and delivery of Shakespeare’s challenging words were very impressive, especially in the lengthy speeches. Each role was affectionately acted. The conversations in the play sounded real, especially the ones at the masked dance the king threw for Capulets at the beginning of the play—each helped develop their own individual characters.The conflict and the arguments—such as the one that the belligerent Lord Capulet, played by junior Stephen Donlon, had with his daughter, Juliet, played by junior Spencer Hayes—were very well presented. Despite the fact that it didn’t really look like the sword touched Georgia Laganiere’s Tybalt when she was slain by Sean Nash’s Romeo in an otherwise exciting scene, most of the sword fighting was downright impressive, well-rehearsed, well-timed, and pretty realistic. The fights brought a lot of entertainment value to the play overall. However, some of the dirty jokes could have been less exaggerated without being any less enjoyable.

The Nurse and Lord and Lady Montegue mourn the supposed death of Juliet

The costumes transported the crowd into a Shakespearean environment. Female characters’ costumes particularly brought beauty and grace to every scene; costumes of the male characters were less interesting. Scenery and props were appropriate and helpful to the story, but the best would have to be the vial they had on the stage when Juliet drank poison. Everything about the play looked like it was brought in from the 1500s.

Director and drama teacher Denise Elia-Yen commented that there had been many challenges with orchestrating this play due to COVID-19. According to Elia-Yen, there were “hardships we faced while preparing for this play…We didn’t have enough time to get to things.” And though she pointed out that some students studied and practiced over summer break, others seemed not to have put in as much effort. Nonetheless, she said without any hesitation, that in the end “the students worked beautifully together.” 

A parent in the audience said, “The kids knew their lines, and they knew how to put in the emotions.” His favorite character was the Nurse, played by Reilly Trainor but he also stated, “All of them did great!”

The amount of practice the students did was definitely worth it. The quality acting, expressions, emotions and memorizing dialogue–everything was really impressive. 

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