Just a week after State Street Ballet’s sumptuous dance version of this classic love story, The Acting Company arrives at the Granada with its full dramatic production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Founded in 1972 as a way to give recent Juilliard grads seasoning on the road in classic plays, The Acting Company has grown into an institution, with scores of successful alumni and a reputation for technical virtuosity in its performances and deep-rooted theatricality in its productions. This Romeo and Juliet is a coproduction with The Guthrie Theater, and is directed by Penny Metropulos. The show’s tour, which will keep the young company on the road from now until the beginning of April, began in New York on October 22, so Santa Barbara will be only the third stop.
When I spoke with director Metropulos by phone during rehearsals in late September, she delivered an eloquent account of the play’s enduring appeal, citing the fact that “this stuff goes on and on. The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets is about who knows what—whatever the thing is that is seemingly so unforgivable, it doesn’t matter. Because what Shakespeare understood was this ability that people have to be eternally outraged and the equal ability they have to love inexplicably.” She said that she believes “the miracle of Romeo and Juliet’s love could heal this feud,” but that complications arise on account of the limitations of the various intermediaries. “The priest is here to say that grace can fail, and the nurse acts from the heart, but she’s without the means to secure the lovers’ safety.” She blames the play’s catastrophic ending on the friar, saying that his “hubris is what causes their downfall. He underestimates the power of all this rage.”
Metropulos explained that in developing the play, her deepest satisfaction—apart from working with the actors—was “seeing a variety of audience members, people of all ages at The Guthrie who were breathless as they watched, experiencing firsthand Shakespeare’s way of telling a story.”
Romeo and Juliet comes to the Granada Theatre this Friday, October 29, at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and info, call 899-2222 or visit granadasb.org.