Audio Theater Review: ROMEO Y JULIETA (The Public)

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by Tony Frankel on March 23, 2021

in Theater-New York,Virtual


Since COVID-19’s halting live theater, there have been two different entertainments emerging. One is plays, concerts and music performed either through ZOOM or a pre-recorded show — rarely have they been live. It’s been an overall dispiriting experience compared to live theater. The best live experience is handily The Seth Show, in which pianist Seth Rudetsky interviews and accompanies the best of Broadway. It’s fresh, surprising, funny, and entertaining — part of that is due to the live performance. The other entertainment emerging is in the form of radio plays, from The Williamstown Theatre to, now, The Public. Los Angeles Theatre Works has been recording radio plays for years, but it’s been in front of a live audience. The beauty of radio drama is it forces the listener to fire up imagination and to, well, listen — that which is something of a lost art form. So how does a radio show without an audience compare? In The Public’s phenomenal bilingual recording of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, beautifully. This production achieves everything it sets out to do.

Bray Poor and Jessica Paz’s Foley and Michael Thurber’s music are outstanding, the cast — some of the best performers in the business — magnificent, and the translation by Alfredo Michel Modenessi easy to digest. Director Saheem Ali, collaborating with playwright Ricardo Pérez González, has managed to make the text accessible to those of us who are already familiar with the script.

But if you don’t know the script, there could be issues. The Spanish lines and English lines may seem to fall willy-nilly. The English dialogue seems to point out plot more than the Spanish for me. However, if the point is to make us meditate on a divided people by culture as well as language, I would have much preferred that one family spoke Spanish and the other English. I surmise that Romeo y Julieta was created by people who have grown up speaking bilingually, but what if this was in English and Korean (the second fastest growing language outside of Spanish here in Los Angeles)? It would be incomprehensible. And I’m afraid this very well-made production may alienate those who don’t speak Spanish. It’s so good, I felt a little left out — this is radio, not a theater. If you are familiar with what may be the most well-known story in Shakespeare’s Folio, turn on the Public’s “radio” now — it’s really quite a thrilling interpretation. For those who don’t speak Spanish, give it a try. Use your imagination and you may just begin to understand what characters are saying in another language.

The complete cast includes Carlo Albán (Benvolio), Karina Arroyave (Apothecary), Erick Betancourt (Abram), Michael Braugher (Balthasar), Carlos Carrasco (Lord Montague), Juan Castano (Romeo), Ivonne Coll (Nurse), John J. Concado (Peter), Hiram Delgado (Tybalt), Guillermo Diaz (Gregory), Sarah Nina Hayon (Lady Montague), Kevin Herrera (Ensemble), Modesto Lacen (Prince Escalus/Capulet’s Cousin), Florencia Lozano (Capulet), Tony Plana (Chorus), Irene Sofia Lucio (Mercutio), Keren Lugo (Sister Joan), Benjamin Luis McCracken (Paris’s Page), Julio Monge (Friar Lawrence), Javier Muñoz (Paris), Lupita Nyong’o (Julieta), and David Zayas (Sampson).

Romeo y Julieta
The Public co-presenting with WNYC Studios and The Greene Space
to listen, go to wherever podcasts are available
for detailed notes and info, visit The Public

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lucy J. March 23, 2021 at 7:34 pm

I heard this, and I don’t understand who it’s really for. I would think that there is a limited audience.


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