Too modern by half

I’m just back from seeing Romeo and Juliet, directed by OSF’s previous Artistic Director Nataki Garrett, who chose to set it in the present day in an unnamed West Coast city (think Oakland). The acting was excellent, the scenery and props added to the storytelling, and the cast was great – but the setting didn’t really work for me.

The play was set “today”, so of course the characters had smartphones. Garrett played that fact for laughs early in the play when Capulet uses the phone to dictate (complete with “comma” and “period”) the invitation to the party where Romeo and Juliet will meet. Romeo had his phone with him in exile in Mantua and used it there to communicate back to Verona – so why wouldn’t Friar Lawrence have let him known of Juliet’s scheme and avoided (spoiler alert) the fatal misunderstanding when Romeo finds Juliet “dead”?