By: Nicole Itkin

Romeo and Juliet— a Shakespearean play that I’ve always found hard to take seriously. I’ve rolled my eyes at the Capulets and Montagues, the rivalry that goes so deep but skirts by without an explanation. Two lovers who are childish in dealing with childish circumstances. Why, pray tell, should I care?

After watching the Barefoot Shakespeare Company’s production of Lady Capulet, I have to say: I do care, I really do. 

Barefoot Shakespeare Company has a mission of bringing Shakespeare to the public, outside and “barefoot.” For the Little Shakespeare Festival, they’ve brought the show inside, and adapted it into a stage reading. It was a wise choice, and kept it a strong show. 

A show’s impact is clear when the same scene, from the beginning to the end of a show, takes on entirely different meaning. And so it does here. 

The show starts, and ends, with the funeral of Juliet and Tybalt– a sad moment at the start, infuriating and painful by the end. 

The story follows Lady Capulet (Jianzi Colon-Soto). Lady Capulet, Juliet’s mom-to-be, is now a young country girl named Rose. She’s attending a wedding in Verona, the groom of which is her brother: Lucio Valencio (Jefferson Reardon). Rose, accompanied by her nurse (Emily Thaler), is young, and very unsure of her outfit. 

Then, she meets Montague (Preston Fox) a handsome man who promises he’ll ask for her hand in marriage. She falls in love with him, and within the hour they find themselves in a closet together. Later that evening, she sees him dance with someone else– engaged to be married with said girl. She’s left broken-hearted, and pregnant. 

So ensues months of scheming, planning, and worry. She has to save herself, her child, and her reputation. 

She marries Lord Capulet (Andrew Dunn) months after meeting Montague. On their wedding night, Capulet looks at Rose. “The bed is crowded,” Lord Capulet says, a threat– he suspects that she’s pregnant. She convinces Capulet otherwise, and gives birth in relative secrecy. She hands her child to her brother and his wife to raise as theirs– a boy named Tybalt (also Preston Fox)

“Thou art always scheming.” Lucio proclaims to Rose.

“I am planning, dear brother, planning.” Rose counters, and what choice does she have? 

On meeting Montague again, he tries to court her, tells her he made the wrong choice. She snarls at him: “The wolf ate the rose and left the thorn.” 

We fast forward 14 years, see Juliet and Romeo grown up. We’re back at a masked ball like the one where Rose met Montague. 

Rose and her nurse look around, see Juliet talking to a boy. “For all we know he could be a Montague,” the nurse quips. It’s a claim ridiculous enough to initially lead to laughter. It soon becomes less than ridiculous. 

On further notice: “Does no one know the names of their own guests?” 

Not really.

It turns out to be a Montague. 

Montague (senior) asks Rose about Juliet: “Does she not deserve more?” Love. Does she not deserve love? 

Rose yells: “More than me? More than any of us?”

Juliet, the daughter Rose fought so hard to have with her family’s reputation intact, falls in love with Romeo? And, at that– it’s love, and a death sentence! As hard as she yells, as hard as she tries… she’s standing before her daughter’s casket. 

“My sister is an earth-treading star,” Lucio Valencio proclaims.

Indeed, Colon-Soto, as Lady Capulet, is a star. She conveys every ounce of innocence, fear, and fight for power. Her brother and her husband are funny and fruitful; yet, they make the game, create the stakes, and she’s the one playing. Her nurse is a source of (sometimes badly timed) reassurance. Montague, her ex-lover, the source of her problems, the root of all evil, and an alternate possibility; it all plays out on his face. 

I feel for the characters. Sure, the text of the play is a fair blow short of Shakespeare, but that’s not to say the language is stilted or rough by any means. It’s a great production, and one that’s made me see Romeo and Juliet in a different light. Job accomplished, and well at that.


Cast Members: 

Andrew Dunn 

Jianzi Colon-Soto

Preston Fox 

Emily Thaler 

Jefferson Reardon

Heather Sawyer 

Written by: Melissa Bell

Directed by: Emily Gallagher

FRIGID New York is holding their 3rd annual Little Shakespeare Festival at UNDER St. Marks (94 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009), running August 3-19. Tickets ($25 in-person; $20 streaming) are available for advance purchase at Most performances will also be available to livestream from home.