Reality show

Shea Davies and Todd Weakley play the lead roles in Highland Repertory Theatre’s three-day production of Romeo and Juliet, which will feature players in modern dress. Recently, Xpress grilled the pair — in and out of character — and learned more about understanding Shakespeare, the play’s deepest message and why naughty double entendres will never go out of style.

Mountain Xpress: “Romeo gets to deliver this line: ‘Let lips do what hands do.’ What’s that mean?”

Romeo: “Well, in the context of that scene, I’ve approached Juliet saying, basically, ‘I’d like to kiss you, and I’d like to kiss your hand.’ And she kind of flips it around on me.”

MX: “How do you flip it around? Are you trying to brush him off because he’s hitting on you?”

Juliet: “Well, you know. You can’t let them get to you too easily.”

MX: “Actually, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking, because I’m a guy. I don’t understand women. Help me out here; we fellows need to know this stuff.”

Juliet: “I’m playing hard to get. But just for a minute.”

MX: “In your reply to him, you interpret his seductive come-on as some sort of reference to prayer with folded hands. So you turn his best attempt at kissing you into religious talk. You pretty much stand Romeo on his head.”

Romeo: “It’s a matching of wits. I come up to her with this really great line I’ve coined. I’m just rattling this stuff off the top of my head and it’s genius. But she jumps in there and shoots holes in this beautiful line, to show how smart she is.”

MX: “So Juliet, do you consider Romeo a saucy boy?”

Juliet: “My cousin’s actually the saucy boy. He’s hot!”

MX: “You won’t kiss Romeo but you think your cousin is hot? You’d better try to explain that to me.”

Juliet: “Hot-blooded is what I meant to say. Ah, the missing scene from Romeo and Juliet!

MX: “Who gets to deliver this line: ‘My naked weapon is out?'”

Romeo and Juliet: [Laughter.]

Romeo: “I’ve never even heard that line.”

Juliet: “I have. I think it’s a friend of Romeo’s speaking.”

Romeo: “Well, he’s probably got his hand on his sword, but he’s probably also making a pun about his ‘naked weapon,’ too. There are lots of jokes in there.”

Juliet: “Oh yeah, plenty of those kinds of jokes.”

MX: “Romeo, what advice do you have for men trying to ‘woo women gently’?”

Romeo: “Romeo has no advice for anyone who is going to do anything gently. Romeo is rash. Dive right into it. Don’t check how deep it is — just go! … Right off the bat, [Juliet and I] hit it off. Intellectually we are such equals, and we play really well together. Outside of the sex, even. For us, that’s not happening with anybody else.”

Juliet: “He’s very passionate. … We instantly have that connection and don’t feel that with anybody else.”

Romeo: “I think that’s what the play says about love.”

Juliet: “And it also says, ‘Violent delights have violent ends.’ So love moderately, because long love knows how to love moderately.

“I think that’s an important lesson of the play. Romeo and Juliet are so intense. It is really sad that they meet and have this special relationship and it comes to such a startling halt [in] only three or four days.”

Probing the Bard

In this section of our interview, Romeo and Juliet drop character. Doing justice to Shakespeare’s cherished classic, they reveal, requires more than the language of love.

Mountain Xpress: “Shea, did you audition for the part of Juliet?”

Shea Davies: “Yes. Todd was cast first to play Romeo. He was contacted by the director, who asked if he would be interested in reading, and he got the part. And then the person who played Juliet auditioned to play opposite Todd, basically.”

MX: “So it was like Joe Millionaire?

SD: [Laughs.] “No! Not at all!”

MX: “Why do you think you were chosen?”

SD: “I think part of it was aesthetics. Todd’s really tall; I’m fairly tall. When I saw Todd I said to myself, ‘OK! Sweet! I have a chance at this!’ [Laughter.]

“And I may have a little more experience working with the language than some of the younger people who auditioned. Shakespeare is very technical for actors to approach. A comma is a half a breath; a period is a full breath. It’s written with stops, half beats, stuff like that. It’s written with vowel and consonant sounds that are [intended] very specifically to capture the emotions or to play an image.”

Todd Weakley: “The language is really difficult. The hardest part about it to me is that it is poetry and it’s based on image, and that becomes your dialogue. You have conversations with images. It’s heavily in contrast to the way I think that we talk to each other now.

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