SHOWING : February 05, 2011 - March 06, 2011
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Young lovers, feuding families and one Friar with good intentions.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Huzzah! for the cast of "Romeo and Juliet"|
Saturday, February 23, 2013 ||
My 13-year old daughter, her 13-year-old friend and I saw "Romeo and Juliet" presented by the fabulously talented cast at the New American Shakespeare Tavern on the evening of February 22. First and foremost, the space is so incredibly gorgeous and the atmosphere certainly sets the mood to view any Shakespearean-era show. The staff and volunteers are professional yet warm and inviting, and the food/drink menu is pretty nice as well. |
We had already eaten dinner prior to the show, but we couldn't resist dessert and drinks. The apple crisp with ice-cream is very yummy!
The show earned a well-deserved "5" from me because it was, quite simply, beautifully and creatively crafted. Jake West ("Romeo") and Margaret Flock ("Juliet") both delivered praise-worthy performances and held their own among their cast of well-versed professionals. The duo has a groovy chemistry; these are actors mature for their ages in certain respects, but the innocence of their youth still shines through...in a good way! Supporting cast members were consistently solid without a single exception.
Of special note are the following: J. Tony Brown as both "Lord Montague" and "Peter" displays quite an array of talents as he portrays "Lord Montague" with a solemn, gentle strength then perfects a comedic lisp that will no doubt crack you up as simple-minded, lovable "Peter." Tiffany Porter's "Nurse" is hysterical, yet believable. She hits it out of the park at every turn. "Friar John," portrayed by Daniel Parvis, emits warmth and charm, and is so very sympathetic as a character you just "get" in every imaginable way.
Thanks to the cast, crew, staff and volunteers for serving up quite a magical evening. We will certainly be back soon!
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Return to Verona|
Thursday, March 3, 2011 ||
Two houses, both alike in dignity,|
At Shakespeare Tavern, where we watch the play,
From year to year to celebrate the day
St. Valentine is honored and obeyed,
Is staged with no ironic purpose hid
(For surely ‘tis an irony that death
Ensues from such a passion young,
And love and death describe an arc that bears
No ‘semblance to the Hallmark platitudes
That seem to foul this day too much for some).
You know, for some reason it seems inappropriate to parody R&J’s prologue for this year’s mounting. After all, director Drew Reeves chose to drop it, making the commendable choice to dive headlong into the brawl that opens the play. This year’s production, in fact, was edited to within an inch of its life, making a fast-paced gallop that avoided many of the it-drags-here sandtraps of previous rounds.
For the record, this was my favorite Tavern “Romeo and Juliet” to date. Matt Felten and Kelly Criss provided the chemistry expected of acting couples married in real life (as if any time off stage can be described as “real”), but they also ably conveyed the characters’ youth, convincing me they were indeed just-teenagers swept away by awakening hormones and new-found lust. Both found opportunities for full-tilt kick-the-floor tantrums, both aroused in their older companions moments of eye-rolling exasperation. Even their first meeting provided an unexpected moment of youthful bravado that surprised and amused with its “this-feels-so-right” playfulness. Their combination of immaturity and to-the-heart passion amplified the emotional impact of their story, and made their tragic circumstance all the more effective.
I also liked the bawdy camaraderie of the Montague friends – they acted convincingly like a bunch of hooligan teenagers, finding roles within a rigid pecking order, exaggerating their own prowess and accomplishments. That their rampant testosterone had such fatal effects only added to the tragic underpinnings of the story.
As expected of a Tavern production, the fight scenes were wonderfully staged, and brutal to a fault. Romeo’s ultimate struggle with Tybalt was especially well-conceived and executed, and totally underscored the young man’s loss of control and thirst for revenge.
As to the supporting cast, I really liked J.C. Long’s blustery and talkative Mercutio, Jeff McKerley’s concerned and oft-distracted Friar Lawrence, Josie Burgin Lawson’s hovering and garrulous Nurse, William S. Murphey’s vacant Peter (the Capulet’s gopher), and Jonathan Horne’s wonderfully smarmy and hissable Paris. I also liked how Daniel Parvis’ Tybalt commanded the language and set off the conflicts, but, for my tastes, he was a tad too controlled and measured – I would have preferred to see more of a “wild anger” underscore his character. Everyone else, with few exceptions, filled out the ensemble with the sort of journeyman work I’ve come to expect from Tavern productions.
On a side note, this production was my daughter’s first Tavern experience, and, though she proved occasionally squirmy and distracted, the play nevertheless made her cry more than once. She’ll be returning for April’s “Midsummer,” and, hopefully, the experience will awake in her the same lifelong love of Shakespeare that seems to infect her doting father.
So, for my daughter’s sake, let me return to the prologue pastiche, if for no other reason than to make the whole “Romeo and Juliet” experience more than complete:
And Mr. Reeves (director of it all)
Needs be commended for another trek
To fair Verona, where our story lies.
The show’s still here, and will no doubt return,
So if you miss this chilly year’s foray
Into the passage of this death-mark’d love,
Do not despair or wallow in regret.
You missed a tightly-paced, exciting tale of woe,
But that light taste of rue that holds your heart
My strained, but civil words shall hope to mend.
-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)
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Characters gone wild in Verona|
|by Lady Mac
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 ||
First things first (literally): What happened to the prologue?! Shakespeare’s very own “Cliff’s Notes”-esque play summary, memorized by generations of high school students, is MIA in the Tavern’s new and markedly different presentation of “Romeo and Juliet.” Did someone think that the prologue will ruin the play by giving away the ending? Is there anyone in America, with the possible exception of Taylor Swift, who doesn’t have at least an inkling of what lies ahead for the young couple? The prologue is not the only scene trimmed from the production, apparently to move things along, but it is the unforgivable one. I will stop short of picketing and initiating a letter-writing campaign, but I do encourage (is “implore” too strong?) the Tavern to consider reinstating the prologue, if it wasn’t just accidentally forgotten on the night I saw the play (which I secretly hope was the case).|
This is a very well-acted production, basically across the board; it’s just a production filled with very unusual – and sometimes very disappointing – interpretations and choices. For example, Jonathan Horne does a fine acting job as Paris. Unfortunately, this Paris is the most irritating interpretation of him I’ve seen in years – smug, selfish, pompous, pouty, jerky, disrespectful and a little slimy. And he packs all of that into barely 10 minutes on stage! There is a really baffling interaction between him and Lady Capulet that is probably supposed to add depth to both characters, subtext or something, but, as far as I can see, does nothing but muddy up the plot and destroy later scenes when we’re supposed to feel bad about the demise of “noble” Paris. Truthfully, it also was a little icky.
Speaking of Lady Capulet, she is well-performed by Mary Saville … as a completely miserable, probably battered wife who seems to take joy in nothing whatsoever. Capulet, skillfully portrayed by John Curran, is an absolute menace – terrifying, really, and not just to his wife, daughter and nurse; even the early confrontation with Tybalt has an eerie Mafia-hit feeling to it. Mercutio is supposed to be a little off-the-wall, but this production has him downright certifiable. He crosses the border from eccentric-but-wise to manic wild man, who, as Shakespeare might say, is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” J.C. Long does a perfectly believable job as a raving lunatic, but it’s disappointing that Mercutio lacks nuance and sometimes is borderline incomprehensible.
But maybe the weirdest directorial decision involves a relatively minor character. Peter, the servant (who looks an awful lot like Lord Montague, “coincidentally”), cannot read and has to enlist the assistance of “the learned” to find out who’s supposed to be invited to the Capulets’ shindig. But when the nurse is being accosted by the maniac Mercutio, Peter is sitting on the steps behind her – reading (or at least holding and looking at) a book. Then later, he is exasperated again when Capulet gives him the list of invitees to Juliet’s wedding to the snob Paris. What is that about? It cannot be an oversight, because most of the time characters don’t just happen to read books in the backgrounds of scenes. Is Peter implied to be faking his illiteracy, and, if so, for what possible reason would he do that? He could have been knitting a sweater during the mock-the-nurse scene and it would have been less of a distraction.
Time to highlight some positives! Two scenes that are noticeably absent are also noticeably not missed. The controversial and often-horrible scene when Juliet’s “death” is discovered, about which I have railed quite a bit in my time, is removed. Last year’s tasteful rendition of it is replaced by a nonexistent rendition, and nothing is lost – especially considering the way her parents and Paris are portrayed. It would have been tough to pull off true sadness with the way they have come across before that point and the abysmal home life in Chez Capulet. Also missing is Romeo’s purchase of the poison from the apothecary. It always seemed like filler anyway, and we get the gist without the play-by-play, in this case. No big loss.
Jeff McKerley is endearing and wonderful as Friar Lawrence. He conveys the exactly right amount of warmth, sympathy, fatherly love (especially since I don’t think we ever see Romeo with his real father), devotion, exasperation and pain. It is a nice touch to have him mix the special sleeping potion for Juliet on stage. Somehow, it’s comforting to think that the friar doesn’t have this unsettling concoction just lying around, already prepared, next to the eye of newt. It is no accident that Friar Lawrence comes across as a hundred times more parental and loving to both of the star-crossed lovers than any of their parents.
Kelly Criss is easily the most believable of recent Juliets in terms of age-appropriateness. It’s not difficult at all to think of her as a 14-year-old; she has a childlike quality and a youthful look that almost make some of her more risqué moments a tiny bit uncomfortable to witness. While there are a few snags in her performance and, again, some directorial decisions make her seem almost bratty (would it be nicer to say “spirited”?) early on, she hits her stride and charges through the truly meaty stuff with impressive panache. She makes it clear that she is not merely stunt casting (Matt Felten’s real-life wife), and the audience can almost feel her heart breaking at more than one point.
Felten, as Romeo, has been down this road before and is a little older than he used to be, so the smitten teen is a bit more challenging to pull off convincingly these days. But he still manages it, for the most part. He also has an impressive ability to be loud/shout/express anguish and still actually make sense, and his emotions seem very real. His swordfighting scene with Tybalt is nicely done, largely because both he and Daniel Parvis (Tybalt) are skillful with swords. And his scenes with Friar Lawrence are touching and sweet.
“Romeo and Juliet” is timeless and will be loved by a lot of people forever. Every February it will sell out almost all of its performances. There really isn’t a need to try so hard to inject something new into it, and this year’s production would have been better off with less tinkering and reinventing. Nevertheless, the basic story is the same and the acting, as I mentioned, is generally excellent, so audiences should still leave satisfied. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Not Missed and Missed by Dedalus|
| You know, under normal circumstances, I'd agree about the exclusion of the prologue. But think about it for a second -- what exactly does it add to the show? Such prologues (or "Arguments" as Ben Jonson called them) were a staple of Elizabethan Theatre, and Shakespeare himself stopped using them after R&J. In this case, I really REALLY liked how its exclusions started the show with a bang -- from curtain speech to street brawl before the house lights were even dimmed. To be hones, I did NOT miss the prologue.|
What I did miss was Peter's book scene, which obviously didn't distract me as much as it did you. Was her holding it right-side up? Maybe he was just holding it for someone -- in any case, I didn't even notice the bit.
Bottom line, this R&J was much more enjoyable for me than the last handful ...
| || No Prologue in the Folio by JohnStephenKing|
| As you may or may not be aware, the Shakespeare Tavern uses the First Folio when performing Shakespeare (except for the shows that aren't in the Folio), and the prologue for R&J does not exist in the First Folio. |
It was not cut for this production, but it has been added in for previous productions. It is up to the director whether or not to use it.
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