DOOR COUNTY, Wis.
Nobody, it seems, draws inside the lines when it comes to William Shakespeare. Theater companies and directors, that is.
Shakespeare’s 37 plays have been interpreted so many ways for more than 400 years that they collectively look like a trick curvy mirror at a carnival.
This summer, by coincidence, Shakespeare’s best-known play is in the midst of performances in Door County from two entirely different perspectives. One is so different that many people wouldn’t recognize it as a take on “Romeo and Juliet” unless they read it in the program.
But both productions are “different.”
Closest to the original is Door Shakespeare’s production, which uses the text of Shakespeare’s play.
Door Shakespeare is a professional company that performs outdoors on the Bjorklunden estate on the shore of Lake Michigan south of Baileys Harbor.
While the title “Romeo and Juliet” may conjure images of elegant clothing among the wealthy in Verona, Italy, in the late 1500s, the Door Shakespeare version moves the time forward while leaving the text as is. Through popular music, performed live in a pre-show segment, the time becomes the 1920s. The place still is Italy, but the clothing is of the ’20s and, instead of rapiers, the men flash switchblades. In essence, the young men of the rival Capulet and Montague families are brash street punks. Through the vision of director Leda Hoffmann and her creative collaborators, the audience experiences “Romeo and Juliet” from a new place – like moving one seat over at the dinner table.
Moving 2½ seats over and placing the dinner table in another room entirely is Northern Sky Theater. Its adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” is titled “No Bones About It.”
Northern Sky Theater is a professional company that performs outdoors in the middle of Peninsula State Park – one edge bordering on the bay of Green Bay – north of Fish Creek.
“No Bones About It” has the Montagues embroiled in a rivalry with the Capps in an international barbeque competition in Verona, not Italy but Wisconsin. There are no rapiers, much less switchblades. No one dies, except for the pigs so there can be a Rib Fest. The time is now, with Twitter, texting and blogs part of the storyline.
Romeo becomes Ronny. Juliet is Julie. Shakespeare’s text is tossed mostly out through his yonder window.
Authors Dave Hudson and Paul Libman drastically change much about “Romeo and Juliet” – plus add songs and comedy, with directors/choreographers Jeffrey Herbst and Pam Kriger adding dances and the overall modern aura. Remaining is the structure of “Romeo and Juliet,” or at least a shadow thereof. It’s “R&J” for funsies.
Each production is quite good.