What Happens in Verona Should Stay in Verona. (Still Star-Crossed – “In Fair Verona…” Review)

WADE BRIGGS, LASHANA LYNCH, STERLING SULIEMANDo you like soap operas? Did you like Romeo and Juliet? Are you a Shakespeare junkie? Are you searching for a guilty pleasure show to watch this summer? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Still Star-Crossed is probably the show for you! Based on the book by Melinda Taub, Still Star-Crossed tells the story of what happened after the ending of Romeo and Juliet. Verona is in ruins as the feud between House Montague and House Capulet has worsened in the wake of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths. Threats from outside the walls of Verona only seem to be worsening. What’s the new Prince, Escalus (Sterling Sulieman), to do? In an attempt to unify the feuding houses so Verona stands a chance against any invaders, Escalus orders that Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs) and Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch) are to be married. Naturally, this doesn’t go so well. (Spoilers ahead!) 


Romeo (Lucien Laviscount) and Juliet (Clara Rugaard) lay together, dead.

I mean, it’s not good. It’s not bad, either. But it lets down the premise immensely. What could’ve been an interesting show ends up being a muddled, boring mess of a soap opera. At least it looks good though; the cinematography is probably the best part of the show, but it’s nowhere near enough to save it. Much of In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene, written by Heather Mitchell and directed by Michael Offer, ends up being an uninspired retelling of Romeo and Juliet. The actors playing Romeo and Juliet (Lucien Laviscount and Clara Rugaard, respectively) do a suitable job as the two lovers, but there’s nothing all that interesting there. It’s basically twenty minutes of retelling a story you already know in order to set up the rest of the series. The interesting bits are the new things they add in. There’s a whole subplot about the Lord and Lady Capulet (Anthony Head and Zuleikha Robinson, respectively) having taken in Rosaline and her sister, Livia, as servants after the deaths of their parents that ends up being kind of interesting. But really, the first twenty minutes or so are just retelling Romeo and Juliet and it’s kind of a pain to get through. There’s some good acting, most notably from the always fun to watch Anthony Head and Lashana Lynch. But, as is the case with much of the episode, the good things are lost in the tedious, boring nature of the show itself.


Juliet’s statue is defaced with the word “Harlot”.

Once the obligatory retelling of Romeo and Juliet is out of the way, the show digs into the meat of the story it wants to tell. In the wake of Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, tensions between the two families are higher than ever. After someone vandalizes a statue Lord Montague (Grant Bowler) had made in honor of Juliet, all hell breaks loose as supporters of both families take to the streets to brawl it out, destroying the city in the process. In order to put an end to this, Prince Escalus decides that the two conflicting houses need to be united (in the same way that Romeo and Juliet were united), so he orders that Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin, and Rosaline, Juliet’s cousin, are to be married in an attempt to unify the houses and end the conflict. This is sort of boring, and it’s obvious the route the show’s gonna take with this. At first, Rosaline and Benvolio have no interest in marrying each other, so they’re gonna be antagonistic and eventually fall in love. That’s always how these stories go, and that’s definitely how they’ve set it up based on the interactions the two characters have throughout the episode. Meanwhile, Lady Capulet and the Nurse (Susan Wooldridge) are trying to keep Count Paris (Torrance Coombs) alive after he was stabbed by Romeo in Juliet’s tomb. Lord Montague confronts Friar Lawrence (Dan Hildebrand), who he partially blames for Romeo’s death, for his part in all of the events. So, like any soap opera, Still Star-Crossed has set up about a billion subplots.


Escalus discusses the outside threats Verona faces.

For me, the most interesting part of this series is its potential. In one of the interviews that were done before the show premiered, it was discussed how various characters from other Shakespeare plays might make an appearance. Apparently, this is the case in the book, although they don’t appear by name so much as by characteristics. So, the plotline of Escalus dealing with the possible invasion of Verona by its neighboring areas is the most interesting to me. I wanna see Hamlet get in on this action! Though it’s unlikely, since Macbeth is from Scotland, I’d love to see him appear on the show as well. Shared universes are all the rage right now in movies and television, and I’m all for a Shakespeare shared universe. This idea is the one that finally made me watch the show. I’ve been on the fence ever since the promos started airing. I mean, was anybody really asking what happened after Romeo and Juliet ended? It’s not like Rosaline or Benvolio were really developed in the play, so I don’t feel like anyone was really clamoring for their story to be told. And after watching the first episode, I still don’t think anybody is really clamoring for that story. The story I wanna see is the one where Verona is invaded and other Shakespearean characters arrive. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this isn’t the show I’m gonna get.


Surprise! Escalus and Rosaline are in love.

Still Star-Crossed is pretty much what you’d expect it to be based on watching the trailers. It’s full of tropes, needless drama, secret after secret, and forced romantic relationships. It’s saved by some fairly decent acting by some of its main cast (Anthony Head and Lashana Lynch, among others). It’s cheesy, overly dramatic, predictable, and somewhat tedious. It’s perfect for those who love soap operas or love other shows in the Shondaland lineup. There are some decent aspects, like the acting, the cinematography, and the possibility of other Shakespearean characters appearing on the show that save the show from being awful. But, is it enough? I don’t really know. I’ll have to wait for more episodes to decide.

That being said, based on the first episode I can’t really recommend the show unless you really like this kind of TV. Maybe that’ll change, but I’ve only seen this episode. I give In Fair Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene two out of five wands.

Still Star-Crossed continues next Monday at 10 pm on ABC with The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth.

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