To end its season, the Huntington University Theatre Company will present William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” — two star-crossed lovers that share a forbidden love in the midst of their feuding families — but with a slight twist. Their particular version will take a spin on the classic Elizabethan era and replace it with a modern cyberpunk era.
Despite being set in a different time, Jay Duffer, associate professor of theater arts, said the plot stays true to Shakespeare’s original script.
“It does not create changes in the plot at all,” he said. “We remain faithful to the original text with only few exceptions for updating.”
The production team incorporated the use of modern technology in order to keep up with the modernity of a cyberpunk society, especially because it is set “in a time when social media is at the forefront of our culture.”
Duffer said he believes the modern updates, as well as the musical choices in particular, will better relate to a younger audience.
“The pulsing and vibrant electronic music will certainly land with youth, and it is more the music preference of today’s younger generations,” he said. “I wanted something that would engage our audiences of today and perhaps those who specifically have had little to no interaction with any of Shakespeare’s works.”
Balancing a range of emotions throughout the play’s dialogue is a challenge, Duffer said, because it can be difficult for the actors to switch between. While the first two acts are comical, the following three are serious and tragic as the play ventures forward.
“It is hard to move quickly from one heightened emotional state to the next and demands great flexibility from the actor,” Duffer said. “However, the actors are certainly up for the challenge and are eager to explore these immense journeys.”
Senior Kyle Lindsey, an actor in the production, said he embraced these challenges and familiarized himself with his character — Romeo.
“[Romeo] is in a world of drug lords, guns, swords, knives, night clubs and violence,” Lindsey said. “It’s a rough and tough underworld. He has lost much in the dangerous city that our director and designers have created, and I think he has had to learn to survive in a way that the original Romeo did not.”
Lindsey said he hopes the audience will walk out of the show with an entirely new outlook on the story and that it will be made new again, reaching out to those who never really could get a handle on Shakespeare.
The play is not recommended for children ages 12 and under, Duffer said, due to the violence depicted and the bawdy nature of some of Shakespeare’s writing.