Director John Langs cast deaf actors to play Romeo and Friar Lawrence, and he incorporated American Sign Language into the script. Romeo, played by Joshua Castille, signs to other characters and they sign back. Sometimes an interpreter serves as interlocutor. Other times, a group of actors voices Romeo's lines, popcorn-reading style. Castille also yells out lines during moments of emotional stress, which is enormously affecting. Working with sign master and ASL translator Ellie Savidge, Langs also added scenes, namely one where Juliet learns to sign a few key phrases in ASL. All of this was more than a victory for an underrepresented community in theater. Having other actors literally voice Romeo's lines while he signs embodies the central theme of the universality of love. It also compounds the tragedy of Romeo's death. Watching him die is like watching the whole town die.
by Rich Smith
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