Getting modern audiences to appreciate the works of William Shakespeare can be a tough task. After all, some people dislike many of the traditional features of a Shakespeare play (including the costumes and the flowery language) and they feel that the Bard’s words don’t translate well into the 21st Century. However, nothing could be further from the truth and a good adaptation of a Shakespeare play can still stir the heart.
“Star Crossed Lovers” is a cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” that does just that. Produced and filmed in New Jersey by Exit 172 Productions, this is a spectacular indie achievement that is sure to win over skeptics who believe that Shakespeare and celluloid don’t mix. This is a modern retelling of the classic story and is set in the Garden State. But while the costumes and sets are modern, every spoken word comes directly from Shakespeare’s play.
The film stars Peter Evangelista as Romeo and Lauren Muraski as Juliet. The success of any version of “Romeo and Juliet” depends on the quality and talent of the leads’ acting and both Evangelista and Muraski are terrific. They successfully convey the couple’s initial flirtatiousness and insecurity with each other in the film’s balcony scene. Later, after they have committed to each other, their passion feels natural and appropriate. The supporting cast is equally wonderful with fine performances from John Hedlund (Tybalt), Melissa Harlow (Nurse), Ted Wrigley (Friar Laurence) and Christopher J. Young (Paris). This is simply one of the best acted films I have seen this year. About the only complaint I have is that every so often, the cast’s Jersey accents come through which briefly brings the viewer back to Earth.
Director Francesco Nuzzi (who is awesome as Mercutio) has a wonderful eye for detail and composition. Each shot is carefully framed so that the Bard’s words spoken by the cast have the greatest emotional impact. He also does a great job with all of the fight scenes. It’s absolutely amazing just how exciting and fresh this film feels.
Exit 172’s production of “Star Crossed Lovers” is a brave interpretation of a classic play and is designed for a modern audience. If the words of Shakespeare stir your blood, you’re sure to enjoy this amazing adaptation. This is a bold and noble attempt to bring the Bard into the 21st Century. It’s also a courageous indie film.