This prequel/revision to/of Romeo and Juliet by Melissa Bell looks at the backstory of Rose, Lady Capulet, who hides a family secret that has fanned a feud between her house and that of the Montagues.
We all know that when Romeo and Juliet meet at the masked ball the seeds are planted for a tragic end. But this is not their story.
Bell surmises that the young Rose is swept of her feet by a man from the Montagues, her daughter simply repeating the pattern – but Lady Capulet hides a secret (she is carrying a son) when she enters her marriage.
For Barefoot Shakespeare Company, whose mission is bringing the Bard to the outdoors, Lady Capulet becomes a stage reading indoors which serves the material well. The video and sound were OK throughout the livestream.
Jianzi Colon-Soto plays the title role with Preston Fox as Montague/Tybalt and Andrew Dunn, Capulet. Emily Gallagher directs a complex tale where alternate paths are always showing themselves, and where one woman’s story inadvertently destroys the children she loves.
Minor characters in Shakespearian plays, whether in tragedy, comedy, or history, can be fascinating when you start to consider where they have been and who they were before the play starts.
In Lady Capulet, Bell puts an unsympathetic character front and centre and helps us try to understand her. We often view her simply as a mother who blocks her daughter’s happiness while failing to emphasise with her need for romantic love.
Recently, I saw a production of The Red Queen and Other Monsters in which scenes were played out between Lady Capulet and Juliet around arranged marriages. It seems writers are starting to reclaim the story of this problematic mother.
Colon-Soto brings the ache of grief to her portrayal of a mother bereaved and betrayed by the men in her life and by her children. She is both the cause of Shakespeare’s feud between the two houses and the catalyst for its continuation.
Lady Capulet ran at Frigid NYC’s Little Shakespeare Festival in Aug 2023.