SCRANTON — When the Capulets throw a party, their daughter, Juliet, and the guests dance to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. As for Lady Capulet’s favored reading material, it’s Cosmopolitan magazine.
But don’t let those modern touches fool you.
The production of “Romeo and Juliet” that REV Theatre will present with a youthful cast on Thursday at the Oppenheim Center for the Arts on Jackson Street in Scranton is still William Shakespeare’s centuries-old story of star-crossed lovers whose bad luck stems from their families’ quarrel.
It’s also the play in which the parents of a 13-year-old girl pressure her to marry the man her father has chosen.
“I can’t even imagine marriage five years from now, never mind three years ago,” said 16-year-old Kayla Chofey, who plays Juliet.
But that was a different era and, Kayla speculates, Juliet probably would have gone along with the Capulets’ wishes and agreed to marry Paris — except that she met and fell in love with Romeo.
“He’s very emotional and he knows what he wants,” said Joseph Olsen, 16, of Scranton, who portrays the romantic hero. “He’ll do anything to get Juliet.”
“Juliet’s very young and naive,” Kayla said, “but she’ll do anything to get what she wants too.”
Romeo enlists the aid of his friend and spiritual adviser, Friar Laurence, played by 12-year-old Connor Briggs, who, as Connor explained, “does more for him than his own father.”
In similar fashion Juliet turns to her nurse, played by 14-year-old Isabella Deflice, who describes that character as more of a mother to Juliet than her biological mother is.
“Lady Capulet and Juliet have more of a ceremonial relationship,” Isabella said.
But no matter how much Friar Laurence and the nurse may try to help, they can’t undo the harm that results when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, portrayed with simmering anger by 18-year-old Taahairah Muhammad, of Scranton, insists on fighting.
“It’s one of my favorite things about REV Theatre,” assistant director Miranda Chemchick said, explaining she applauds artistic director Rudy Caporaso’s casting of young women in the major roles of Tybalt and Romeo’s friends Benvolio and Mercutio.
“It’s fun,” to play a male role and practice sword fights, Taahairah said, adding she had sore leg muscles for a while “but I’m better now.”
Her real-life sister and brothers are also in the play, with 16-year-old Zakiyyah playing Benvolio, 13-year-old Rahiym playing Juliet’s suitor, Paris, and 12-year-old Shahiyd playing Lord Montague.
Proving that he knew his lines, Shahiyd easily recited Lord Montague’s closing thought about raising a gold statue to Juliet.
“I guess, to remember her,” Shahiyd said, admitting a statue wouldn’t erase the bloodshed.
The play offers a lesson, Rahiym said. “Not to judge people because they’re from a different race or family from you.”
REV Theatre Co., which is based in Philadelphia and New York, works in partnership with the United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania to bring theater to casts and audiences that might not otherwise experience it.