Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Misalliance" & "Romeo & Juliet"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark

Romeo & Juliet

Directed by Diego Arciniegas

Set Design by Janie E. Howland
Lighting Design by John Cuff
Sound Design & Producing Manager John Doerschuk
Costume Design (Romeo & Juliet) by Jane Hillier-Walkowiak
Costume Design (Misalliance) by Rachel Padula Shufelt
Fight Director Ted Hewlett
Fight Captain Angie Jepson
General Manager Bill Bradshaw
Assistant Stage Manager Jameson R. Croasdale
Production Stage Manager Nerys Powell

Hardly any of the companies calling themselves "The (Blank) Repertory Theatre" actually do plays "In Rep" --- but The Publick Theatre does. They don't change plays every day, but every week. After three weeks of George Bernard Shaw's "Misalliance" come two weeks of "Romeo And Juliet" and then, week after week, the plays will alternate for six more weeks. Thus you can see two completely different approaches to young love, with most of the cast returning in new clothes to become totally different characters. Both plays are directed by Diego Arciniegas --- who just may be forging a personal approach out on the banks of the Charles where his actors are universally encouraged to Talk To One Another instead of posturing and pontificating. There are no famous stars, but as you see the two plays you will probably notice a few stand-out performances. And should you have seen either play before, I think you, as I did, will see both these shows fresh, new, and believably human in every detail.
See for youselves, and argue with me if you disagree.

"Romeo & Juliet"

by William Shakespeare

Capulet............Steven Barkheimer
Friar Laurence............Owen Doyle
Benvolio...................Will Ford
Paris.....................Eric Hamel
Paris' Man................Tim Hoover
Juliet..................Angie Jepson
Abram............Robin JaVonne Smith
Escalus/Apothecary...Gabriel Kuttner
Mercutio.................Ben Lambert
Lady Capulet.........Debera Ann Lund
Montague..................Allan Mayo
Lady Montague..........Janelle Mills
Nurse..............M. Lynda Robinson
Balthasar.............Nathanael Shea
Tybalt..............Alejandro Simoes
Romeo.....................Adam Soule
Peter.................Collin Summers

I saw this only last night, and impressions are fresh in my mind --- a mind familiar enough with the play to look for new ideas, and to find plenty. For instance the duel between Mercutio (Romeo Montague's relative) and Tybalt (Juliet Capulet's uncle) brings ruin on the lovers, and blazes with excitement, danger, and as much brawling as sword-play. (Thank you Ted Hewlett!) Ben Lambert's Mewrcutio is as lightly poetical with his rapier as he has been with his flights of fancy; but Alejandro Simoes faces him as a street-thug and killer, smugly proud at his adversary's unexpected death and haughtily indifferent to the government's ban on feuding. When Romeo avenges that death it is with double swords, giving no quarter. And since this fight is the keystone to the tragedy --- playing out the "plague on both your houses" curse --- the emotional realism is excellent.

Earlier, I was struck by M. Lynda Robinson's garrulous nurse, rattling and prattling on with memories of her charge, young Juliet. She's been years-enough with the Capulets to know her place, but also to know when her maudlin memories can run riot. Her cue is that Juliet at a few months short of fourteen and so a marriageable maid. Her protective father's only child, this Juliet is ready and eager for this new adventure, though to the man she chooses rather than her father's candidate. And her nurse becomes her accomplice.

Gabriel Kuttner fills three roles, stepping quickly into the person of a poison merchant for a moment, but as the Duke of Verona he lays heavy sentence on public brawling, and to become the Duke he steps out of duty as the prologue/narrator of this star-crossed tale. As the play opens he dominates a lightning-sketch of the Veronese troubles that here are described rather than illustrated. (No "I bite my thumb" exchange.) There's no posturing or pontificating here; as a matter of fact, passages of quick rhymes flit by as conversational exposition. But then The Publick is completely committed to "The power of the spoken word" and makes telling rather than showing doubly effective.

In fact, in general Director Arciniegas has cut away a lot of overly familiar cliches and left in many flights of poetic fantasy few viewers will have heard before. Angie Jepson's Juliet has whole paragraphs of poetry that were new to me, giving evidence to her character's intelligence and eagerness for life, her headstrong willingness to fling herself totally into the arms of love despite the dangers.

Adam Soule's Romeo is no less love-beguiled or headstrong, but more complicated. He starts the play in love with Rosaline (Capulet's niece), goes masked to a Capulet ball just to see her --- and finds someone else. He is brave and honest, young and rash, handsome and love-sotted, and tripped up by accidents. He is more physcal, his Juliet more verbal, and both delightful.

Arciniegas bites off the end of the play, ending it with both families frozen in astonished horror at the sight of these two star-crossed, dead lovers lying in the Capulet family crypt. Again, the sacrifice is of familiar lines in an attempt to give others more room to breathe. Only those who know the play perhaps too well will miss them.

I wonder, though, if perhaps this was the difficulty the GLOBE reviewer apparently had with this production: it isn't the expected text. I long ago decided it was a waste of time reading what The Globe Thinks; I mean, the only people who take the Globe's opinions seriously anymore are people who aren't interested in seeing the play and forming opinions of their own. I had reservations, but so much that's new actually works and brings the play alive that they're hardly worth mentioning.
And there will be several weeks of performances where you can form your own opinions.
Send your reactions to me, and I'll put them into The Mirror...


by George Bernard Shaw

Lord Summerhays...Steven Barkhimer
Mr. Tarleton............Owen Doyle
Gunner.............Gabriel Kuttner
Bentley..............Stephen Libby
Lina...............Debera Ann Lund
Mrs. Tarleton....M. Lynda Robinson
Joey Percival.....Alejandro Simoes
Johnny Tarleton.........Adam Soule
Hypatia...............Heather Wood

It was G. B. Shaw's pleasure to take such sacred concepts as True Love, turn them upside-dwon, and bounce them against outspoken characters til the rafters ring with laughter. His layers of English class jostle one another with refreshing, shocking honesty, skewering hypocrisy on every side. His major subect here is not exactly love, but the rules of engagement and marriage --- and whether they really need be played-by or thrown into the dustbin.

I saw this play a while back, and though details have faded with time what remains in my mind is the glow of a delightful, perhaps a perfect production. An aristocratic English family, headed by Owen Doyle as dad and M. Lynda Robinson as mum, are trying to shepherd Heather Wood as their daughter into a suitable love-match with the best available suitor despite her reservations. Then, when one of those new-fangled aeroplane thingies demolishes the greenhouse bringing a Polish feminist (Debera Ann Lund) and a record-hunting pilot (Alejandro Simoes) into the mix, nothing can ever be the same.
The fact that Shaw's irreverent wit seasons every line of these extraordinary conversations make this play (which is older than I am right now), superbly contemporary!

"Conversation" is the right word. The Publick style shows people Talking to one another, listening to each other, and reacting quite believably with the lines the playwright provides. Some characters may be surprised, as well may be some in the audience also, but then it was always Shaw's intent to shake things up a bit, wasn't it?

( a k a larry stark)

"Romeo & Juliet" & "Misalliance" [In Rep] (5 July - 16 September)
Christian Herter Park (1175A Soldiers Field Road) BOSTON MA
1 (617)454-1444

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide