According to Bulgarian National Theatre Director Lilia Abadjieva, “Love defeats death; it is stronger than death, yet at the same time it leads to it.”
And, it is no secret that the world loves “Romeo & Juliet,” the classic tale of star-crossed lovers and feuding families. From “West Side Story” author, Arthur Laurents, to contemporary cinematic virtuoso Baz Luhrmann, this 17th century masterpiece has been revised, re-imagined and re-made too many times to count. Fortunately for Santa Barbara residents, next week will provide the opportunity for locals to see what one of Europe’s leading directors has to say about the popular play as the Bulgarian National Theatre shares its 100-year old company with the United States for the first time ever. The U.S. premiere of BNT’s “Romeo and Juliet”, playing next week at the Lobero Theatre, is guaranteed to be powerful, unconventional and most importantly, controversial.
On Oct. 19 and 20, fans of Shakespearean theatre will get to witness the radical retelling of the popular tragedy, presented by Lit Moon Theater Company. The play is both a satire and a parody, highlighting the physicality of the couple’s relationship. With an all-male cast, this traditional play has been modernized into an androgynous form of physical theater. Abadjieva expressed in various interviews about the play that this directorial choice comes out of the idea that a woman reaches a sense of harmony when she is connected to man. By showing no separation between man and woman, the audience can rid themselves of their preconceived notions of gender norms and focus on the play’s storyline instead.
While dialogue is important to this play, movement is the true messenger. Physical theater is an intense art form that can be described as highly visual, using the body as the main form of expression. In this play, the psychological warfare of the two characters is shown through dance. With a rock ‘n’ roll influenced soundtrack and a real rainstorm happening on stage, some critics have called the production “eccentric” and “apocalyptic.” Nevertheless, the play is making headlines all over Europe.
Director Abadjieva is notorious for this avant-garde style, modernizing the classics for over a decade. This ability to transcend Shakespearean tradition is what drew Lit Moon Director John Blondell to Abadjieva’s take on “Romeo and Juliet.” Founded in 1992, Lit Moon is known for its development and presentation of alternative theatre. Blondell, a UCSB alum, created the Lit Moon World Shakespeare Festival in an effort to show a range of bold and innovative approaches to Shakespeare’s plays, he said. There is no question that with six wet men in spandex and plenty of contemporary music, effects and choreography, this production of “Romeo and Juliet” will absolutely be innovative and definitely worth checking out.