Room 352, the “Jewels 1” Miller Studio Theatre on the third floor of the College of Fine Arts, is not large, as theatres go. The entire center section of the room serves as the stage, and a few seats are placed on either side so all audience members can see the whole stage.
Quiet drum music plays as the audience files in. Neither they nor the room itself are ready for what the next two and a half hours will bring.
BU’s all-female Femina Shakespeare troupe’s free production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Adrienne Boris, runs from October 23-27.
The production brings into focus not only the extremely sexual language of the Bard’s classic romantic tragedy, which is often passed by in favor of the more romantic lines, but also the complexity of every relationship in the play. By destroying the gender boundaries of classic Shakespeare, previously undiscovered subtleties come to life.
Created by current School of Theatre professor Christine Hamel, the program says the troupe aims to “give female students the opportunity to dig into roles exploring power, authority, and violence, unlimited by the gender constraints often found in traditional casting.” The women of Femina Shakes, as they are referred to in the program, seem to be doing just that.
No attempt is made by Femina Shakes to pretend that the women playing male roles are men. Not only is this comforting on an artistic level, it also gives a powerful dimension to the male characters not present when they are portrayed by men.
The production could most certainly reverse the general resistance to all-female casts, and indeed is recommended, in particular, to those who believe traditional casting is the only way to go with Shakespeare: this different casting is not only modern and refreshing, but also adds rather than takes away from the play.
Every sword fight provokes gasps, particularly that between Tybalt and Romeo, which is filled with a raw emotion obviously not completely foreign to the scene, but which is nevertheless enhanced in this production.
Not a moment comes off as forced, a particularly difficult accomplishment when dealing with Shakespeare, but the ladies of Femina Shakes take on and defeat this challenge with the utmost elegance, and the result is a fantastic and heartfelt performance.
For more information about CFA free Fall events, visit: http://www.bu.edu/cfa/theatre/school-of-theatre-events/free/