SELINSGROVE — Ah, young love. Dreamy-eyed, all-consuming … disturbing and suicidal? Such is the message of Susquehanna University’s upcoming rendition of “Romeo and Juliet.”
“It’s dark. It ain’t no Valentine’s story,” cracked Steven Gebhardt, the sophomore theater performance major who plays Romeo. “We want to challenge the audience. The majority of the people who sit in these (auditorium) seats know the story. We want the audience to go, ‘I never really saw this take on it.’”
Cast members watched a 1930s film version of the play to see what they wanted to avoid: the romantic cliché.
“It’s really not a romantic play,” Gebhardt said. “It’s about obsession. It’s about lust. I really don’t think it’s about love.”
“It’s more the idea of puberty and sex. Puppy love,” agreed senior performance major Jazmine Casiano, who plays Juliet. “Being in love is not going to be my main thought all the time. My main thing is, (Juliet) wants to have sex, get married, lose her virginity as soon as possible.”
Casiano has had to empathize with her 13-year-old character’s mindset.
“She cries a lot. She screams a lot. She acts like a brat,” Casiano said of Juliet. “I tried to remember how I was when I was 13. I didn’t want to hear ‘No.’”
As for Romeo, he might not be the heartthrob generations of young women have yearned for.
“He’s not that much of a charmer,” Gebhardt said. “In my opinion, he takes the personalities of the people he meets.”
One character who will charm the audience is Juliet’s nurse, played hilariously by sophomore theater performance major Jake Young.
“Oh, my God. I love it. It’s so much fun,” Young said of playing the melodramatic, female role — a nod to traditional Elizabethan times, when all female roles were played by men. “I get to play around with so many voices and movements.”