Love and hope. Tony and Maria. The Sharks and the Jets. “West Side Story” throws the audience into a world of dichotomies and opens up a conversation about basic human emotions conflicting with societal constructs. Director Jim Corti questions whether the 1950s street gangs are any different than today’s version of hate and racism. On stage, we feel this with a set that almost fades into the background and can represent any time or place. Both the incredible costumes and (almost mathematically impossible) choreography especially stand out as further separating the two groups. Anita played by Mary Antonini does an outstanding job of evolving her character to only be proven right at the end. That was the toughest part for me to watch. You want to hold on to the love and hope that Tony (Will Skrip) and Maria (Zoe Nadal) share and it’s hard to process what comes next. These kids are angry and they are marginalized and where Tony and Maria had hope (and intense chemistry), they have none. Paramount Theatre’s production of “West Side Story” shows us the rawness of passion, loyalty, and hatred with no holds barred while also showing the power and possibility of unity. It’s beautiful and ultimately tragic when the Sharks and the Jets get together on the Paramount stage. Corti wonders when the killing with end. Maria knows. It’s when the hate is gone. Corti gives us hope even in the darkness.
“West Side Story” runs through April 24 at Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora. Not recommended for sensitive or young audiences due to heavy themes and violence. Call the Box Office at (630) 896-6666.