A tragedy for millennials

Guthrie Theatre puts a modern spin on the famous tale of star-crossed lovers.

Blood, spit and beatboxing are the first things that come to mind regarding the Guthrie Theatre’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet.


The Wurtele Thrust Stage is set with an enchanting moonlit fountain and a towering stone palace. Nothing is particularly unusual, until the famous Montague and Capulet brawl begins. Actors are dressed in modern getups, including hooded sweatshirts and riot gear, all whilst wielding classic rapiers. It is an enrapturing experience watching as the actors dressed in 21st century garb attempt to kill each other with swords. The rest of the show uses this same bold contrast of old and modern. While some costuming choices may be confusing at times, it serves as a fresh twist.


Along with the unique set, the cast brings a new take on the well-known characters. Romeo, played by Ryan-James Hatanaka, is portrayed as a whiny, naive greaser who lacks much confidence in talking to girls. He puts the hopeless in “hopeless romantic”.


Kate Eastman, who stars as Juliet, doesn’t take as large a risk with her role, but still packs each line full of passion and emotion. At times she turns Juliet into a parent-hating, “typical” teenage girl, which gets some laughs. The cast has fun with each role and proves to have a genuine love for what they do.


A standout performance that sparked the most laughter was Mercutio, played by Kelsey Didion. The casting crew’s decision to place her in a male role challenged the traditional way we view the character. Regardless, Didion was a crowd favorite. She is animated, rambunctious and entertaining. Thanks to her, we never miss a single Shakespearean innuendo.


Musically, the show replaces dull romantic strings with more modern, electronic scores. It had even the older crowd dancing in their seats.


Many of the play’s famous scenes are done justice, but still manage to have their own modern spin on them. The balcony scene was received with roaring applause from the audience, as Hatanaka and Eastman twisted their lines into a more relatable exchange between hormonal teenagers. The more grim scenes, however, may be a bit much for a younger audience. They are forced to find some sad reality in the play’s violent and dark themes.


Under the direction of Joseph Haj, this production is sure to surprise anyone who feels there’s nothing more to be done with Shakespeare’s tale of tragic young love.

Romeo and Juliet runs at the Guthrie Theatre on the Wurtele Thrust Stage from September 9 through October 28. Tickets as low as $29 can be found at guthrietheatre.org.