A Fresh, Adult Take: R & J Reboot

Think it’s a bit strange to see Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with two actors over the age of 50 playing the leads? Think again. According to guinessworldrecords.com, the oldest actor to portray Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, was 76-year-old Sian Phillips in a 2020 Old Vic production, with then 66-year-old stage and film star Michael Byrne (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) playing Romeo. The Old Vic’s director Tom Morris set this production in an old folks’ home with the two leads as octogenarians. So, there it is. Out of the box.

In Dallas, Plague Mask Players presents a taut, contemporary adaptation of the beloved tragedy with nationally-recognized playwright, respected actor/director and regional college professor Steven Young as grieving widower Romeo who falls into a tragic sunset of romantic love with the ravishingly beautiful , equally stage-seasoned, mature Sara Weeks as Juliet. Meanwhile, Juliet’s adult daughter and husband (the Capulets) scheme to marry her off to feckless Paris (Anthony Magee). Young, Weeks and Magee are all well-versed actors who exhibit thorough craft mastery, interpretive fluency and acting facility that help them elevate the sharp adaptation to deeper levels of meaning and impact than one would typically find in a more “conventional” production. Not that one cannot see fine productions of traditional R&J on a yearly basis nation-wide, but adding maturity to the “star-crossed” pair adds a pleasingly impactful perspective. It is rare, pure delight to watch Young and Weeks discover and rekindle love on adult terms. If you attend this production for one reason, alone, let it be to revel in the dignified, impassioned, natural portrayals by Young and Weeks of the ill-fated lovers. Even as Magee has few scenes/lines in this production, he brings a sad fullness to the role of Paris, often treated as an almost comical walk-on, another victim of the destructive, cruel rivalry between Montagues and Capulets. Other fine performances include E. A. Castillo as well-intentioned Friar Laurence, Cody Magourik as Romeo’s dear, mad friend Mercutio and Carissa J. Olsen as the Prince, struggling to find a “lasting peace” beyond vengeance. Stage combat, directed by the masterful Jeffrey Colangelo, adds some energetic variety to the play’s innate “talkiness” and uses the limited space and actor abilities effectively.

The adaptation would benefit from a further script trim to allow the main character interactions full focus and a balance of cadence to emerge in timeless, sculptured symmetry.

Unfortunately, I had no access to a press release and no program as my Android phone doesn’t read QR codes, so I have no way to acknowledge technical staff or director/adaptor. The set with multiple entrance options remained uncluttered and simple throughout, while lighting (always a bit odd at the Bath House) helped establish and maintain mood with smooth transitions. Costumes worked adequately in general for the men. Some female characters’ overly busy attire distracted, and an odd profusion of chain jewelry on several characters, both male and female, seemed unnecessary. These minor details don’t diminish the strong, honest impact of the production. You won’t likely get to experience the power of Shakespeare’s language so effectively any time soon; if you’re a Bard Fan, don’t miss this intimate production of seismic dramatic proportion.

Romeo and Juliet runs through 2/18 at the Bath House Cultural Center on White Rock Lake in Dallas.

Tickets: www.plaguemaskplayers.org

Affordable. Parking is free.

The Guardian Review 3/14/2010:



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