Tragedies tend to feed feuds, not end them; grief sends reverberations through the lives it touches and makes people cry for vengeance. This is the theme of Sharman Macdonald’s After Juliet, which suggests that the prince’s enforced truce at the end of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a tenuous one at best.
City Theatre’s production of After Juliet, directed by Lori Ann DeLappe-Grondin, invokes a semi-apocalyptic steampunk feel, with goggles and wonderfully detailed costumes designed by Theresa Vann-Stribling and Lenore Justman, and a geared metalwork set, provided by Kevin Miller of Miller Design & Assembly. It’s a dark, post-industrial setting for an equally dark, violent and rusty rage.
Romeo and Juliet lie recently entombed, while elsewhere in the city those who aided their plan—the nurse, a Capulet servant, the friar and the apothecary—are on trial for their part in the disruption to the prince’s prized civic order. Capulet and Montague weapons have been collected and the truce is being enforced, but law cannot control emotion as the youth of the two families try to cope with what has happened.
Rosaline (Julianna Camille Hess), Juliet’s cousin and the abandoned focus of Romeo’s first passion, seeks vengeance. Meanwhile, Benvolio (Anthony M. Person), Romeo’s cousin, has fallen in love with her. Other youths from the warring clans—notably Lorenzo (Maggie Trevor), a Capulet; and Valentine (Nathan Cline), the dead Mercutio’s brother—chafe under the enforced truce and look for ways to spur the fight anew.
While Macdonald’s blank verse eschews Shakespearean flourish, it can be a bit hard to follow. It’s the earnest performances and glorious staging which make this epilogue a worthy examination of the aftermath of tragedy.