Amorous Rites: “Romeo & Juliet (Layla & Majnun)” — a world premiere

There is a vibrant tradition of performing William Shakespeare’s playtexts cross-, multi-, and trans-culturally. Such productions help us think through our own positions of privilege and reflect on the paradox of globalization—that to learn about other countries and cultures seems to always come with the threat of violence. For post-colonial writers, Gabriel García Márquez called this paradox the “crux of Solitude”: “poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.” A play interested in Shakespeare’s text as a shared vocabulary, and then putting that in conversation with other shared cultural vocabularies, Bag & Baggage’s world premiere of “Romeo & Juliet (Layla & Majnun)” is stunning.

From left: Benvolia, cousin to Romeo, a Bedouin (Cassie Greer); Tybalt, cousin to Juliet, a Warrior of the Cross (Signe Larsen); and Nawfal/Mercutio, a Bedouin warrior (Colin Wood).

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