Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Love in a Time of Hate
Teatro del Pueblo
Review by Arthur Dorman | Season Schedule

Also see Arty's reviews of Only Ugly Guys and Reasons for Moving and Deanne's review of Glensheen

Paulina Aparicio-Rosales and Samuel Osborne-Huerta
Photo by Molly Weibel
I will make an educated guess that most readers of this review are quite familiar with William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and are equally familiar with West Side Story, the musical adaptation that transports the star-crossed lovers to mid-20th century New York and turns half of the characters into newly arrived Puerto Ricans, competing for turf and opportunity with the Anglo home-town gang. Teatro del Pueblo's Love in a Time of Hate, staged at the Luminary Arts Center, lies somewhere in between, feeling like an authentic Shakespearean outing and a brush with contemporary street life at one and the same time. If you are not sure that combo is enough to lure you to another session of romantic tragedy, know that its beautifully rendered staging and wonderful performances are ample reason to take in this production.

The title Love in a Time of Hate conjures up the ancestral hatred between Shakespeare's two medieval houses, the Capulets and the Montagues, and the turf war between working class white and Hispanic gangs conjured by Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents all Stephen Sondheim (none of whom were working class, nor Hispanic) for West Side Story. Those too were times of hate. Come to think of it, when have we not lived in a "time of hate?" If we honestly look back at any time or place in history, have we not always had factions drawn against one another by differences in skin color, religion or sect, national origin, language, tribal or family loyalties, livelihoods (even Rogers and Hammerstein knew, the farmers and the cowboys were not friends), or social class? Perhaps the color crayon pundits use to fill in our counties and states on an election year map will be added to the list.

Love in a Time of Hate zeroes in on urban Latinx life, with both of its antagonistic parties part of that same broad culture–there are no references to national origins, be they Puerto Rican, Mexican, Dominicans, Ecuadorans or any other homeland. What sets these two clans apart is their economic status. The Montagues are steeped in the working class, downtrodden and disenfranchised as they call out creeping fascism and spray-paint anti-capitalist slogans. The well-heeled Capulets are aligned with the elites who control the economy and an government. Indeed, the occasion at which Romeo and Juliet meet–Shakespeare's ball and Broadway's "Dance at the Gym"–is now a political fundraiser, hosted by the Capulets to raise money for a candidate who is a mocking stand-in for the current Republican presumptive presidential candidate.

Within this politicized take on the centuries old tale of love and hate, the narrative of Love in a Time of Hate follows Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet fairly closely. In fact, it makes use of much of Shakespeare's exact language, all of the well-known speeches and dialogues from the play making an appearance. Where there is new text, it uses the colloquial language of today's urban Latinx streets. This new hybrid piece was the creation of director Marco Real-D'Arbelles in concert with the Teatro del Pueblo development team, and the result is wholly successful.

This production is not a musical, per se, though there is an opening song sung by Juliet and reprised at the conclusion, and there is music for the dances (with stylish choreography by Lelis Brito) at the benefit party. However, there is almost continuous underscoring performed live by five members of the Bach Society of Minnesota led by Marco Real-d'Arbelles, a brilliant pairing of their artistry with Teatro del Pueblo. There are strains of Bach and his contemporaries, but also the sounds of various branches of Latinx music, as well as the yearning tones of Andean flutes, used to especially evocative effect.

Within the context of disdain between the bourgeoise and the working class, made further specific by their Latinx identities, the ill-fated love story is not much changed from Shakespeare's telling of it. One significant change here is in the characterization of Juliet not as an innocent, but an insolent, youth, reacting to her controlling mother's directives not with desperate appeals but with confident diffidence. This Juliet may not yet be experienced, but she knows what she wants in her first and true love, from a physical as well as a romantic standpoint. We can believe this spunky, pouty Juliet is for real.

Other changes are that Friar Laurence, who aides the original lovers in sealing their union in the face of their families' opposition, is now Larry the Lawyer, operating out of a storefront that seems to be a combination of tavern and legal aide shop, but still sympathetic to the impetuous couple. The Prince of Verona is now a Marshall, a small accommodation to the time frame. More notable is the addition of a narrator, Santi, who takes the place of the chorus who narrate the opening of Shakespeare's first two acts. Santi is an everyman who lives by his wiles but understands the workings of a multitude of hearts. His presence has a comedic tone, and there are occasions where he slows rather than facilitates the play's progress, but overall, his is a favorable addition to this variation of Romeo and Juliet.

Outstanding performances abound. Most central are the altogether winning portrayals of the two lovers, Paulina Aparicio-Rosales as Juliet and Samuel Osborne-Huerta as Romeo. Both actors convey a yearning for true, reciprocated passion, and an eagerness to find that in one another. Both are of short stature which has the effect of making their freshness and youth, relative to those encircling them, stand out, and there is a genuine chemistry between them that makes it easy to understand the impetuous and dangerous choices they make.

Julia Diaz is remarkable as the cunning Lady Capulet, compelled to support her class and position even over her maternal bonds, fiercely uttering, "Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word; do as thou wilt, for I am done with thee" as she rejects Juliet for rejecting the up-and-coming politician Paris' marriage proposal. Abigail Chagolla wins us over as the nurse who has been Juliet's emotional support her entire life. Chagolla brings out the wit, affection, and an ever so slight quality of buffoonery that make the Nurse a winning character.

Other strong performances come from Isaac Quiroga a truth-teller in every situation as Santi; Tyler Stamm as the accommodating Larry the Lawyer; Antonié Rios-Luna as Juliet's hot-headed cousin, Tybalt; Alex Barreto Hathaway as Romeo's faithful cousin Benvolio who aims to avoid conflict; and Ben Bailey as Romeo's dearest friend, Mercutio, whose commitment to his friend's honor is his undoing–but not before he winningly delivers the fanciful tale of Mab the Fairy Queen.

Kurt Jung's lighting design makes extraordinary use of the brick and concrete-post industrial walls of the Luminary Arts Center, creating cubicles of roughhewn space, and artfully shifting the emotional tone from romantic passion to frolicsome play among friends, to impending danger. The lights fall on M. Curtis Grittner's scenic design, with a well-wrought loft as Juliet's bedchamber, the trellised wall below made to order for the famous balcony scene. Other settings are formed with a parade of panels rolled on and off stage, some effectively forming specific locations; Larry the Lawyer's shop, and the Capulet family shrine, and family crypt stand out. Molly O Gara's costumes wonderfully differentiate the class that is the line that divides this assembly of characters into hateful packs. Lady Capulet's high neckline above a cleavage-revealing cut-out seems an apt manifestation of her duplicitous nature. Richard Graham's sound design establishes a world that engages all of the senses, while modulating the volume of the musical underscore to match the spoken dialogue.

May I quibble? There is a key point in the plot regarding Friar Laurence (in Shakespeare) or Larry the Lawyer (in Love in a Time of Hate) getting a crucial message to Romeo, who has been banished from the state. In both cases the message fails to arrive in time, but Shakespeare provides an explanation for this, whereas in the current play we have no idea what when wrong. Whether we know or not doesn't change the outcome, but is a gap in what is otherwise cogent storytelling.

A larger misgiving is the conclusion. (For any who don't know who this story ends, I suppose I must issue a spoiler alert at this point.) Here, as in Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, the tragedy that snuffs life and love out of beloved youth on both sides of the hatred serves to draw the two sides together, at least in the moment, be they Capulets and Montagues, or Sharks and Jets. Somehow–and perhaps because of how authentically it is portrayed–that coming together, that sense of a silver lining emerging from such darkened clouds, is hard to believe here. I would like to believe it, but the transformation feels too hurried and forced, and too abrupt–especially on the part of Lady Capulet. Perhaps, with the story placed in a setting that is closer to our present day, the idea of hatred being so easily cast aside feels out of sync with what we have seen in the outside world. If so, it is a grim take on the world and not the play.

Those thoughts aside, Love in a Time of Hate is a thoughtfully devised, beautifully rendered, and compellingly performed variation of the ancient saga of hatred among humans who deem themselves too different to see the commonality that would allow love to blossom. All this is enhanced tremendously by the Bach Society of Minnesota's artful accompaniment. It is highly recommended.

Love in a Time of Hate, presented by Teatro del Pueblo in association with Bach Society of Minnesota, runs through June 30, 2024, at the Luminary Arts Center, 700 North First Street, Minneapolis MN. For tickets and information, please call 612-333-6669 or visit For information about Teatro del Pueblo, visit

Adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Directed by: Alberto Justiniano and the Teatro del Pueblo Development Team; Music Director: Marco Real-d'Arbelles; Scenic Design: M. Curtis Grittner; Costume Design: Molly O'Gara; Lighting Design: Kurt Jung; Sound Design: Richard Graham; Fight and Intimacy Director: Mason Tyer; Choreographer: Lelis Brito; Dramaturg: Jane Peña; Properties Manager: Trey Porter; Assistant Costume Designers: Caroline Amaral Zaltron, Anahi Sanchez; Vocal Consultant : Mira Kehoe; Spoken Word Consultant: See More Perspective; Technical Director: Evan Sima; Stage Manager: Andre Johnson Jr.; Assistant Stage Manager: Kyra Richardson.

Cast: Paulina Aparicio-Rosales (Juliet), Ben Bailey (Mercutio), Justin Cervantes (Paris), Abigail Chagolla (Nurse), Julia Diaz (Lady Capulet), Victor Garcia-Benitez (Sampson), Maria Isabel Gonzalez (Gregory), Maliya Gorman-Carter (ensemble), Alex Hagen (Capulet), Alex Barreto Hathaway (Benvolio), Jacob Hellman (ensemble), Christy Johnson (Marshal), Kaitlin Klemencic (Lady Montague), Samuel Osborne-Huerta (Romeo), Isaac Quiroga (Santi), Antonié Rios-Luna (Tybalt), Tyler Stamm (Larry the Lawyer), Diego Symouksavanh (Abram), M. Scott Taulman (ensemble).