Mama Madison: Young love

Never has theater been more instructive

The first post I ever penned for this blog extolled the virtues of taking your kids to American Players Theater. My family had ventured to Spring Green that evening, nearly four years ago, to see a matinee of As You Like It. And like it we all did; both the kids and I found the silly romp completely charming. But the comedy's plot -- people running away to live in the forest, cross-dressing for new identity purposes, and group weddings -- certainly didn't resonate much with anything going on in our lives at the time.

This past weekend though, I led my same, but now older, crew "up the hill" to see the company's current take on the Bard's classic tale of doomed romance, Romeo and Juliet. The performance was first-rate, too, of course. But as Isthmus writer Katie Reiser notes in her review, the show highlights the "impetuousness, impatience and narcissism that can accompany young love."

So this time the story line struck a lot closer to home.

While Romeo's age is never explicitly stated in the show, at 17 and 14, my sons are getting pretty close. And my daughter is now twelve and a half; just one year shy of how old Juliet was when she impulsively marries a guy she'd just met at her parents' party. First love, especially for teens, is a crazy, zany, overwhelming thing. And often, as the play reminds us (spoiler alert), such dalliances do not end well.

Thus far there have been no serious romances around our place. But when the time comes, I do think I'll be able to relate to that whole Montague vs. Capulet situation. Not so much from a feud between townsfolk standpoint (I'm sure my neighbors wish we'd mow the lawn a little more often, but thus far, no one's challenged me to a duel). But I totally sympathize with Romeo's and Juliet's parents' desire to like the family of the child their child is dating, And call me a yenta, but I also get Lord and Lady Capulet's overwhelming compulsion to play matchmaker for Juliet -- that Count Paris guy they want her to marry, rich and good looking, is really not such a bad catch.

I'm a little nervous, too, about my kids sneaking out and flirting up a storm behind my back. Granted my house doesn't have a balcony for wooing, but surely with today's social media and texting options it would be pretty darn easy for one of my teens to get mixed up in a forbidden romance while I remained utterly clueless.

It seems a bit unfair that in the play Romeo and Juliet, the audience gets a prologue. We already know how the story will end before the action even begins. But when it comes time for my kids to be caught in the exhilarating, yet often painful, throes of first love, I'm not going to have the benefit of foresight. I'll just need to plead with them to take it easy using the words of Friar Lawrence: "Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so. Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow" (Act 2, Scene 6).

Yes, I know that it's doubtful my kids' first love stories will literally resemble much of Shakespeare's tragic tale. Just to be on the safe side though, I'll recommend they steer clear of poison, daggers and iambic pentameter.

But seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

And in the life potentially imitating art department, wouldn't it be something if the kid he or she eventually falls for actually hails from "fair Verona"?

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