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Romeo and Juliet

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 3289

SHOWING : January 31, 2009 - March 01, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

We are extraordinarily proud of how far we have come with our productions of "Romeo and Juliet." We’ve done full-text versions, cut versions and even had local celebrities like Alton Brown, Monica Pearson and Clark Howard read the prologue to each show! And through it all, one thing is constant: we’re always open on Valentine’s Day!

We hope you’ll join us as we continue the tradition!


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Laura Cole
Montague John Basiulis
Prince Andrew Houchins
Benvolio Joshua Lee Jones
Friar Lawrence Doug Kaye
Capulet's Lady Josie B. Lawson
Romeo J.C. Long
Tybalt Mike Niedzwiecki
Mercutio Daniel Parvis
Capulet Maurice Ralston
Juliet Mary Russell
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Mushmouth Amok!
by Dedalus
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
2.5
The Shakespeare Tavern’s new production of “Romeo and Juliet” starts out well. The initial fight is staged with enough verve, and with sharp enough characterizations that I had high hopes for the evening, especially considering the “track record” of the last few shows I’ve seen there.

But, after the dueling settles down, something unfortunate happens. The actors begin to talk, and the show sinks like a stone.

This is unusual, since these actors have all shown their skill for the text of Shakespeare, and for building credible characters based on that text. They have the rare ability for finding the “music” in the language without losing its sense or substance. Here, though, it’s as if they have been directed to spew out their speeches at the fastest possible speed, no doubt to keep the pace lively and to get through the show in the “two short hours” predicted by the prologue. Unfortunately, the result is chronic mushmouth – I literally could understand only one word in ten, so all credibility, all comprehension, all poetry is completely lost. And the ironic result is the play drags unmercifully, seemingly twice as long as its “THREE long hours” of running time.

The worst offender is Mary Russell’s Juliet. At the top of the second half, once she learns the fates of Tybalt and Romeo, she becomes all whiny and distraught, swallowing all her words in a cascade of tears and incomprehension. Yes, Juliet is supposed to be on the edge of madness, but she also needs to be mercurial and understandable. Ms. Russell is one-note only, and it’s not a pleasant note. JC Long fares better as Romeo, with many clear and character-driven moments, but he too, especially in the second half, races through too many speeches with little apparent comprehension.

On the other hand, Daniel Parvis is quite an excellent Mercutio – I have some quibbles with some of his choices during his “Queen Mab” speech, but at least he was making interesting choices and making them clear to us. Doug Kaye’s Friar Lawrence is also sharp and well done, and he doesn’t fall into the mushmouth syndrome until his last scene. The program lists Joanna Daniel as the Nurse, but I’m sure it wasn’t she I saw, but Erin Considine (I think), who, unlike everyone else, was able to make her speed of delivery understandable, and to make it seem like a character choice, not a tempo drill. She was hysterical and charming at the same time, and I missed her when she was off stage.

Still and all, old pros Maurice Ralston and Andrew Houchins were all words and monotony, with no characterization and no attempt at clarity, and seemed to be “phoning in” their performances. To be perfectly honest, I was shocked, especially considering the caliber of performance I’ve seen from both of them. I was also shocked at how dull and “stately” the party choreography was (all non-smiling back-and-forth pavanne, repeated too many times). I know this is a tragedy, but, at that point, the characters should be having a modicum of fun.

My suspicion is that the play wasn’t quite ready to go on its feet, that another week’s rehearsal, another week’s “table time” would eliminate all the “mushmouth” clarity problems. It would also allow the actors to achieve the level of comprehension and characterization I know they’re capable of. Still and all, I saw the show I saw, I have to report on what I saw, and I have to leave speculation to those of you fortunate enough to see it when it’s actually ready.

All this being said, as usual the fight scenes were the best parts of the show. The early scenes adequately showed the adolescent conviviality of the Montague and Capulet factions, the performances of Mr. Parvis, Mr. Kaye, and Ms. Considine (if it were indeed she) were, for the most part, praiseworthy. And only time will tell if this oft-performed tale will be oft-performed enough by this particular cast.

And, for the sake of the audiences to come, please slow down and E-Nun-Ci-Ate!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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"Two hours traffic" becomes Atlanta rush hour
by OctoberSundance
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
3.0
"My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Prodigious birth of love it is to me,
That I should love a loathed enemy." – Act I, Scene 5

"Romeo and Juliet," arguably Shakespeare’s most popular play, is more than just the bane of ninth grade English students; it serves as an initial impression of the Tavern for many theatergoers. About half the people in the audience of the February 6 show, most of them in couples, acknowledged that it was their first visit to the venue. Unfortunately, judging by the lukewarm applause and halfhearted laughs peppered throughout “the two hours traffic of our stage,” it’s doubtful that many of them will return.

Tavern regulars appreciate the fact that the Atlanta Shakespeare Company always stays true to its sources while taking just enough risks to jive with a modern audience. Plenty of risks are employed in this production, helmed by Laura Cole with assistance from Maurice Ralston, who moonlights as Capulet. Sometimes it all comes together but, as a whole, this "Romeo and Juliet" leaves a lot to be desired.

So what went wrong? Ironically, one of the least effective choices was also one of the safest: the casting of Mary Russell. She is a solid performer, but her Juliet acts more like a child throwing a tantrum than a young woman consumed by a forbidden relationship, and Russell’s inability to fully explore this multilayered character renders it difficult for the audience to connect with her. Fan favorite J.C. Long’s Romeo is about one more platitude and some black nail polish away from being what today’s teenagers refer to as “emo.” He gripes and whines and sulks around the stage while trying his hardest to magically manufacture some chemistry with Russell; one is more likely to sympathize with the bright-eyed Paris (current apprentice Lee Osorio), with his hopeful smile and ever-present bouquet. This Romeo and Juliet’s relationship has all the depth of the modern kind that culminates in the couple shooting daggers at each other from opposite sides of the set while playing the “you are [not] the father” game with Maury Povich: it’s sloppy, superficial and hard to believe.

At least Daniel Parvis gets some, albeit not nearly enough, stage time to stretch his actor’s muscles with history’s most brazen portrayal of Mercutio – the perfect example of a risk that works. Whether he’s taunting his archrival Tybalt (Mike Niedzwiecki) or groping Juliet’s nurse (Erin Considine, a last-minute replacement who seems to be channeling Lorraine Swanson, Mo Collins’ befuddled and braying recurring character from “MADtv”), Parvis completely steals the show; his delivery of the “Queen Mab” speech alone is an extraordinary feat, and the plays sags considerably after Mercutio’s murder. Doug Kaye turns in another fine performance as Friar Lawrence, and Maureen Yasko (probably the strongest member of this season’s Apprentice Company) is memorable in her brief scene as the Apothecarie, even more than she is as Montague’s Lady.

"Romeo and Juliet"'s lighting is beautiful, particularly during the balcony scene, and the costumes are dazzling, as always. Drawing names for a chance to read the Prologue is a fun idea, although watching the raffle winner deliver the speech is ultimately more exciting than the title characters’ relatively chaste displays of affection. When all is said and done, the production feels much longer than its promised running time, and caring about its outcome becomes increasingly difficult. It’s a well-loved story with a smattering of standout performances, but this year’s "Romeo and Juliet" probably won’t win the Tavern any new fans. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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