Star Crossed Lovers is not costumed and the setting is Bloomfield New Jersey (with some beach scenes shot in Sea Girt, also New Jersey.) The budget for the film was $ 15,000 and the actors are unknown (at least to me.) That all being said, and your expectations sufficiently lowered, the charm here is that the acting is really terrific! The understanding of what Shakespeare wanted to say is felt and delivered by the cast. When Juliet says "Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?" She isn't wondering where he is, but WHY he is Romeo? A MONTAGUE! Her enemy! A point often missed in professional productions-she gets it and intones it correctly!
Juliet is played by Lauren Muraski and Romeo by Peter Evangelista. Their chemistry is a pure conduit for Shakespeare's character creativity! I would be surprised if we didn't hear from them in bigger things soon. Another clear show-stealer is Emily Williams who plays Benvolia! Yes, Benvolia NOT Benvolio! Having this important character played by a woman instead of a man, gave this "kinda flat" character an exciting dimension thanks to Miss Williams' energetic interpretation. Star Crossed Lovers is available on DVD and some Internet channels.
OTHER PRODUCTIONS WORTH COMPARING First, the most recent "Hollywood" production starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth, is lavishly costumed and performed in beautiful settings. The screen writer (Julian Fellowes) updated the script here and there but, to my mind; doing so lost some of the poetry of Shakespeare's language, but perhaps made it easier to understand. Nevertheless, eye candy worth watching.
Previous to the Steinfeld/Booth version, Director Baz Luhrmann also updated the story. No costumes, although the guns are named, "Sword"! While the director had two brilliant actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Clair Danes, he chose to film a frenetic camera version. This staccato style worked well for his Moulin Rouge, but the pace was too distracting for Shakespeare in my opinion. Still, the acting makes it a worthwhile viewing experience.
Somewhat obscure but worth a mention, our favorite Anne of Green Gables star, Megan Follows, gave an endearing performance in 1993 in a stage play-recorded version. No cutting made it a greater challenge for the actors who, nevertheless, did an excellent job; certainly worth watching and available on DVD. (And a great resource if you plan to stage the play yourself!)
I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention a classic 'parallel' version of the story. Instead of Capulets and Montagues: Sharks and Jets. West Side Story, a must-see film!
Finally, my opinion is that the 1968 version by Franco Zeffirelli is the best film version of Romeo and Juliet ever made. The period-correct sets were mostly shot in Verona and Tuscany, Italy. The beautiful costumes are in a museum in Italy and the acting is brilliantly portrayed by two previous to this production unknown actors, Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. All renditions of Romeo and Juliet should be compared to this; and while in a different financial production league, Star Crossed Lovers stands up well! Bob Ward