note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
How fortunate we are to have the Publick Theatre running not one, but two sparkling productions through Sept. 16th. Because the Publick has an outdoor stage, even if they run out of seats, the audience can sit on the hillocks overlooking the action, where many enterprising picnickers feast before the show.
MISALLIANCE (Reviewed earlier) is completely charming and ROMEO & JULIET does not disappoint. In fact, this ROMEO & JULIET, directed by Diego Arciniegas, is quite different from the static Shakespeare you may be used to. The characters are full of piss and vinegar and Arciniegas’ superb cast makes you sit up and pay attention—because you probably haven’t heard the text interpreted so viscerally before. And you’ll feel you know each character thoroughly.
When you first meet Romeo, he’s so melancholy (He says his “soul is lead”) that you think he’s Hamlet. He’s as sullen and depressed as the Dane. But then he spies Juliet and he’s transformed. Not into a lovesick sop, mind you, Adam Soule plays him with the cheeky bravado of a dashing, winking Errol Flynn.
Juliet, as her loquacious nurse (the hilarious M. Lynda Robinson) keeps announcing to the world, is not quite fourteen. Angie Jepson makes her a silly, giggling “impatient child,” like a preteen just out of braces, trying out her gleaming smile. That’s Act I. But once she embarks on the very grown-up task of saving Romeo from a death sentence, she matures into determined womanhood.
The supporting cast is a joy. Owen Doyle is a quick-witted and witty Friar Lawrence. Ben Lambert is a hot-headed, dangerous Mercutio and Alejandro Simoes is a malevolent and formidable Tybalt---which can only mean fiery swordplay (choreographed by Ted Hewlett). Steven Barkhimer makes Capulet charismatic---and funny. What a treat to find the parents as compelling as their children. Debera Ann Lund, as Lady Capulet cuts a severe swath through her scenes.
Eric Hamel is a kindly suitor for Juliet. Were she not otherwise engaged, he would do nicely—and he certainly doesn’t deserve what he gets at Romeo’s hands (another of Arciniegas’ surprises!) Will Ford is an earnest Benvolio and Gabriel Kuttner does triple duty, as the apothecary who supplies the poison—and as the Prince who tries to clean up the nightly brawling----and as a stand-in for the author, who at first sketches in the action, both as expositor and at his Elizabethan easel, then finishes the tragic portrait of the star-crossed lovers.
Stephen Sondheim’s deliciously perverse INTO THE WOODS is being given a sparkling production by the F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company (alas, through this weekend only) at the Regent Theater in Arlington. Sondheim and James Lapine’s clever retelling of some grim (Aren’t they all?) fairytales weaves together the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstock and more… for a modern, sardonic take on the naïve 19th century notion of “happily ever after.”
If you haven’t heard of the F.U.D.G.E. Company, you soon will, because they can’t keep this news under their hats for long: Tickets to this non-equity, but nevertheless professionally mounted musical are $10-15. That’s with an orchestra!
Some of the singers are conservatory students--- That means they’ve got the chops. Some come from Emerson, M.I.T. or other local companies---and they all perform with poise and charm---and they all master Sondheim’s extremely difficult music.
I can’t help it. The wolf is always my favorite character in INTO THE WOODS and F.U.D.G.E.’s Matthew Stern doesn’t disappoint. He’s a suave, debonair and dangerous beast. No wonder Little Red (a spunky Kacee Staiti) is intrigued. After the wolf is dispatched (Such a travesty!), Stern comes back as the vacuous prince who dogs Cinderella’s footsteps, and then, once he wins her (the delightful AnneMarie Alvarez), leaves her high and dry. (Now you always knew he would, didn’t you?)
Stern is hilarious and dashing, all at the same time, not an easy task for a prince. Stern and his royal, equally self-absorbed brother (Steven Dyer) have one of the show’s best duets and lucky for us, they have it twice! Also quite wonderful are Ursina Amsler and Ian Flynn as the Baker and his Wife. Richard Hoehn is the sweetest of giant-killers and SiouxSanna Ramirez-Crux the very best of fussing mothers. Lindsay Hurley is a spectacular witch and Melody Chapin a fine comedienne.
There isn’t a bad performance in the lot. Director Joe DeMita keeps the action hopping and music director Jason Whiting gets fine singing from the entire cast. Bless their hearts, no one wore a mic (Hooray!) but this meant that, at my performance anyway, sometimes it was hard to hear---a small price to pay for honest vocal power.
Watch for future F.U.D.G.E. productions. Rumor has it they’re flying into the Piano Factory this fall with BAT BOY: The Musical. Don’t miss out.