Run Time: Three hours, including one 15-minute intermission
A love to die for
When you are passionately, purely in love, nothing else matters—not even life itself. Shakespeare’s consummate tragedy of young lovers swept into a catastrophic vortex of misunderstandings, secrets and fate is set in 1840s Alta California—a vibrant and conflicted time in our history. Romeo and Juliet, the son and daughter of two landed families locked in an old feud, are irresistibly drawn to each other. Defying the hatred and distrust surrounding them, they dare to believe they can, and must, be together.
The city of Verona is once again torn by brawls between the feuding Montague and Capulet families. To restore the peace, General Prince decrees that any future offenders will be put to death. Amid this turbulent atmosphere, Don Capulet hosts a feast, inviting the noble Paris to attend and woo his only child, Juliet.
The Montague heir, Romeo, and a band of boisterous friends don disguises to crash the banquet. Quickly forgetting his pangs of unrequited love for the fair Rosaline, Romeo is captivated by Juliet’s beauty as she dances. The two fall in love at first sight, learning each others’ identity only after they have wooed and parted.
Evading his taunting friends, Romeo scales the walls of the Capulet orchard and overhears Juliet profess her love for him. Romeo reveals himself, and the lovers exchange vows of devotion. The next afternoon, Friar Laurence, who hopes their union will end the feuding between their two families, secretly marries them.
After the ceremony, Romeo joins his companions on the streets, where a quarrel erupts. Capulet’s nephew, Tybalt, recognizes Romeo from the previous night’s festivities and challenges him to a duel. When Romeo refuses, his friend Mercutio takes up the challenge and is mortally wounded as Romeo tries to part them. In an agony of grief, Romeo slays Tybalt and is then banished by General Prince. After a secretive wedding night with Juliet, Romeo is forced to flee Verona for nearby Mantua.
Knowing nothing of Juliet’s secret marriage and believing she weeps immoderately for her cousin’s death, Capulet insists that she marry Paris in a few days. Unwilling to betray her true love, she initially refuses, and her father threatens to throw her out onto the streets. Juliet runs to Friar Laurence for solace. He counsels her to feign acceptance and then take a potion that will make her temporarily appear dead. In the meantime, the Friar writes to Romeo of their plan, promising that the new husband may whisk his bride away to Mantua when she wakes two days later.
The Friar’s letter is delayed, and Romeo believes his love is truly dead when news arrives of her funeral. Armed with deadly poison, he makes his way to Juliet’s tomb. He is there confronted by the mourning Paris, whom Romeo kills after a brief duel. Lamenting his lost love, Romeo drinks the poison and dies just moments before the Friar arrives and Juliet awakens. Frightened by the sound of the watch, the Friar flees, while Juliet quickly stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger to follow her beloved into death.
As the citizens gather, the Friar confesses his role to General Prince, while a letter from Romeo to his father confirms the tragic events. Montague and Capulet vow to erect golden statues in their children’s memories as a “glooming peace” settles over Verona.
This production of Romeo and Juliet is part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national theatre initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest.