'This play is dirty and it's grungy': Cold Frame Collective's new take on 'Romeo & Juliet'
“When [director] Caroline [Bobbitt] first started having ideas about this play, she was thinking, you know, this play is dirty and it's grungy,” says producer Audrey Barrett about the new production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet currently being staged by Barrett and Bobbit’s Cold Frame Collective. Their version updates the story a bit, moving the doomed lovers from the fourteenth century to the tail end of the grunge period, about 25 years or so ago.
“And it's not, you know, kids going to… a ball. These are parties that are being thrown by parents and kids that are being exposed to things way too young. And for us, that's what the modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet is: kids that are being brought to their family's parties and not really being watched and getting up to all kinds of trouble. And so for us, that had to happen a little bit more recently. Specifically, the 90s and grunge just really fit. This story is not clean. It's not neat, it's really messy and everything about it is really messy. So that time period for us was just really perfect.”
Along with updating the setting, Barrett says that Cold Frame also wanted to take a fresh look at these familiar characters. “The goal was just that we retell the story that is so classic and is so iconic and has been told a million times, and we just humanize everybody,” she says. “There's not villains in this story. There are some people that do some pretty unforgivable things, but it's because they think that they're doing the right thing or they're protecting their people. And there's also really no heroes in this story. Everyone is deeply flawed. And they are misguided or they are intentionally set on a wrong path by other people that are supposed to guide them. So these are deeply, deeply human characters that are flawed.
“We love Romeo and there's lots of great things about him,” Barrett continues, “but if you play him as, you know, the hero that comes in and saves the day, it's not as interesting.”
“Yeah,” agrees Max Lakavage, who plays Romeo in this production. “I mean, he's self-obsessed. He's not narcissistic, but he definitely has a lot to learn and doesn't really get to grow old enough to learn those lessons.”
“These characters, they're not dumb, they're not stupid,” says Gabrielle Smith, this production’s Juliet. “They're just misinformed teenagers that are trying to live their lives. They're doing the best they can with what they've been given. So it's been really interesting to find a Juliet that's not whiny and just the little teenager but somebody that's trying to figure out life.”