Romeo and Juliet is not only the most recognizable Shakespeare title, but is the most recognizable love story of all time. Plagued by their parents’ long-standing feud, the two teens marry somewhat impulsively and secretly, only for Romeo to be banished for killing Juliet’s cousin (to be fair, the other guy totally started it). Consultation with their creative clergyman results in a plan to fake Juliet’s death, sending Romeo a personal messenger to ensure there are no misunderstandings. What could possibly go wrong?
Edited Script Takes Focus off Family Feud
HE SAID: I always find it interesting and a bit surprising to see what parts of Shakespeare’s plays get cut for any given production. With Shakespeare being in open domain, there are not the same restrictions on editing the material as there is with say modern musicals licensed from MTI. Change one of those shows and your production could face being shut down. As most Shakespearean productions do, CSF has freely taken liberty with the material cutting out a few sections – for example, the Benvolio monologue where he explains the preceding events to the Prince was nowhere to be found (aside from a silent discussion in the background). Most noticeably, for me, was the number of edits found in the final moments of the show. The series of events from Romeo’s return to Verona to find Juliet in the Capulet Monument to the end of the show are missing solid chunks of the original script, which for me lessen the idea of how much these two affected everyone around them.
SHE SAID: I’ve never been in or seen a Shakespeare production that wasn’t at least a little cut down. Literary genius that he was, there are some references that are just too archaic, and very few audiences can sit through an unedited production. Other times, the editing serves an artistic purpose, like a change of focus in the story, rather than just facilitating audience understanding. The editing in this case seemed to be designed to de-emphasize the senselessness of the family feud, and to instead cast a spotlight on the hysterics of the teenagers in love. While I think that the script holds up to such an interpretation, I really missed the broader social context and message of the piece.
Actors Nail Iconic Roles
HE SAID: The interpretation certainly does hold up, in large part to the performances conveying that message. Bonenfant and Romero are back as another set of star-crossed lovers after playing romantic George and Emily in last year’s production of Our Town (review here). Both had a fantastic grasp of the language presenting it with such a nice ease and handled the emotional highs and lows of this piece remarkably. The performances I found most memorable came from a few supporting characters. Geoffrey Kent as Mercutio was aggressive, charming, and generally wonderfully dynamic. Leslie O’Carroll as the nurse was hilarious throughout that it created a beautiful relationship with Juliet, which made the sadness of her “death” so moving.
SHE SAID: For me, Bonenfant shone just a bit more as Romeo than Romero as Juliet. I can’t put my finger on it, but for me, his tortured teenage angst was well wrapped up in his language and physicality. Romero as Juliet has plenty of lovely moments, and she brings a strength and a power to the role that few waif-like Juliets have achieved, which I appreciated, but there was something that prevented me from fully connecting with her performance. Kent as Mercutio was the highlight of the show for me, I found his entire performance but truthful and captivating. I only wished that during his death scene (late spoiler alert!) he seemed a little weaker and on the verge of expiring. He was rather coherent, both vocally and physically, which made it hard for me to believe that he was on his last legs.
Design Elements Tell Simple Story to be Heard by All
HE SAID: Yeah, I had a similar issue. He showed us this massive wound and yet everything was sort of neutral. For a character that was presented as having such a large personality up to that point, it seemed odd that the reaction to what was happening wasn’t bigger. But perhaps that contradiction was what they were going for, but it didn’t quite work for me either. Kent, who played Mercutio, also served as the production’s fight director and served it well. All of the fights were very complex, engaging, and thrilling – especially Mercutio’s duel with Tybalt (Benaiah Anderson).
SHE SAID: I also really enjoyed the fight choreography, along with the other artistic elements. I liked the simple scenic design by Andrea Bechert, and appreciated attention to detail, such as the shape of the balcony doors being identical to the shape of the interior of her room that was used several times. The costume design by Clare Henkel was equal parts appropriate and lovely. The brand new body microphones allowed all of the actors to use more vocal variation, and I appreciated some of the softer, more intimate moments that they afforded. However, the sound system doesn’t have all the kinks worked out, and the sound went in and out, which got a bit distracting, and I imagine must have been off-putting for the performers.
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CSF Pulls off Classic with Class
THEY SAID: Because this show is so well-known, the experience for most audience members will be determined by the unique elements any particular company decides to put in or emphasize for any given production. CSF has definitely mounted a fantastic production with a multi-dimensional design than it’s predecessor from years ago. The cast is wonderful across the board with some lovely standouts. The most distinct mark on the show is perhaps the waythe script has been edited. If you have a particularly emotional tie to one of the missing moments, you might be disappointed, but for most it is a another splendid offering from Colorado Shakes this season.
For a full plot synopsis and history of Romeo & Juliet, see the wikipedia article. Romeo & Juliet plays through August 13 at in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, and August 19 & 20th at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.