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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Still Star-Crossed is a drama that continues Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. As in the original play, characters drink poison to commit dramatic and glamorous suicides. There also are many on-screen sword fights, stabbings, and slashings, though violence tends to be stagey rather than realistic, with very little blood and no gore and characters tending to fall over dead after one thrust of the sword. There's also occasional sexual violence: A man tries to rape a woman during a street battle between Montague and Capulet factions, and there's graphic talk about politically motivated violence: A princess wonders if her head will be on a spike in front of the castle. There are references to "whoring" and "brothels"; scenes are set in these brothels, and characters drink ale there. Marriage is a way to consolidate wealth or power, and women are seen as possessions, though at least one female character talks about wanting to be her "own mistress."
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What's the story?
STILL STAR-CROSSED, from the production company of Shonda Rhimes, continues the story of Shakespeare's (soon dead) impetuous young lovers. Fair Verona is split into three factions: the hardscrabble Montagues, chief among them patriarch Damiano Montague (Grant Bowler) and Romeo's ne'er-do-well cousin and best friend Benvolio (Wade Briggs); the rich and prominent Capulets, including Lady Giuliana Capulet (Zuleikha Robinson) and Lord Silvestro Capulet (Anthony Head); and the Verona royals: newly minted King Escalus (Sterling Sulieman) and Princess Isabella (Medalion Rahimi). After the tragic events described by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet, the town's powers attempt to heal the rift by promising that Juliet's cousin Rosaline (Lashana Lynch) will marry Benvolio. But with Rosaline determined to control her own life and Verona's enemies planning a royal coup, it's going to take a whole lot more than one arranged marriage to cool things off.
Is it any good?
With rich source material, a crush-worthy cast, and absolutely beautiful costumes and settings, you'd expect this soapy nighttime drama to be a little more fun. Alas, though continuing the adventures of Shakespeare's best-known (and probably best-loved) drama is an interesting notion, this show takes itself just a little too seriously to be the fizzy fun fans have come to expect from a Shondaland production. It sure looks good, though: There are horses, there are castles, there are laced-up bodices, prince's balls, clanging sword fights, potions, and secret passageways.
Unfortunately, there's also leaden dialogue and predictable plot twists. Rosaline and Benvolio have a "meet aggressive," so of course they're perfect for each other and will soon be sharing stolen kisses behind satin draperies. Lord and Lady Capulet telegraph rich arrogance and the Montagues humble righteousness, so soon the former will get their comeuppance, while the latter will get their due. Ho hum, blah blah blah, there's just no spark in anything, nothing that makes the viewer go "ooh!" or "Oh no, she didn't!" Like so many Shakespeare high school plays, it all winds up being something you think you should watch, and want to enjoy -- but might not.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' conflicts among family, duty, and love, as well as about Still Star-Crossed's treatment of gender and class.
Why are period shows, which depict a different historical period than our own, popular and common? What dramatic possibilities do these types of shows offer that modern shows don't?
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