We had the opportunity to sit down with Eve Annenberg director of Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish. The play Romeo and Juliet has been translated around the world. Now this gritty, funny new feature film retells William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in Yiddish.
A middle-aged ER nurse, Ava, in graduate school—and bitterly lapsed observant Jew—undertakes a Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s great classic, Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile, her houseguest, also a Hasidic dropout, is “leaking” Kabbalistic magic, and enchants her studio apartment.
In what might be the first Yiddish “mumblecore” film, Annenberg creates a parallel universe (aka Williamsburg, Brooklyn), where Romeo and Juliet stem from divergent streams of ultra-orthodox Judaism and speak their lines in street-smart Yiddish. The Bard may have never dreamed of the Montagues as Satmar Jews, but Annenberg’s fanciful direction makes the story of feuding Orthodox families both poignant and timeless.
As they start to ‘modernize’ and act in the archaic play, the young men fall under its rapturous spell. Annenberg’s utterly enchanting meditation on life and love in New York yields a rapprochement between Secular and ultra Orthodox Worlds.
By the end of this 89 minute confection, set to temp strains as diverse as Itzhak Perlman and Panic in the Disco, family is redefined, Shakespeare evaluated, Ava happier, the viewer not only understanding a little Yiddish, but thinking that boys in long black coats and peyes can actually be really sexy and cute. A meditation on love, family, Romeo and Juliet explores how anyone–including black hatted slackers–can perk up and find new direction under the spell of love and Shakespeare. If the issues are not yet solved, they linger in the air like a little Kabbalah magic.