The first show of Providence College's Department of Theatre is "Romeo & Juliet" by William Shakespeare. The children of two powerful families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are so deeply enchanted with each other that they forget they live in an environment where their scrappy cousins would rather wrestle and brawl than recognize anything akin to love. "Romeo & Juliet" has been called a classic, and rightly so, for it is the most human of emotions to fall in love, and on the other end of the spectrum,perhaps the most human of emotions to wish destruction and revenge on one's enemies. Director John Garrity directs this show excellently with 23 students. He is aided in his task by Sara Ossana who does the scenic design with a two story unit set of three building facades, and a concrete yard with garbage strewn about to represent the urban city setting. Sara also made a gorgeous multitude of costumes which she designed especially impressive is Lady Capulet's gold pants suit and orange brocade dressing gown with brown trim as well as some garish ones worn by the women which captures the style of the 80's perfectly. (Also impressive is the big hairdo styles of the women which are comic to look back on.) Chris Brown designs the lights which are astounding in the death scenes and George Marks handles the technical direction. Norm Beauregard, a master stage combat choreographer stages the fight scenes and the knife fights in this show are astonishing. Stage manager Paula Tran keeps thing running smoothly all night long.Their combined efforts and the talent of his cast with its excellent poignancy, leaves you in tears at the end of the show.
John sets the show in the late 1980's and has his performers capture the essence of the play with current day themes of gang violence, reckless youth who are willing to commit suicide when things go wrong and torrid romantic love. He blocks them all over the massive set with the performers utilizing every part of it, climbing around the stage area with ease.The first part starts off with a knife fight between the two families and includes some comic moments such as the nurse and the mother using a broom to describe how sexy Paris is to the young Juliet, the simplicity of Peter and his crazy antics and Mercutio's comic knife fight at first that suddenly turns tragic unexpectedly. The first part has the needed exposition for first time audiences but it is the end of this part with the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt and the second part that will impress even seasoned Shakespearean theatre goers. Romeo and Juliet are beautifully played by Brendan Hickey and Emily Grill.(I knew her mother, Kelly Westcott when I did "Evita" at the college back in 1986.) They make the needed transition from carefree youthful lovers into dramatic adults beautifully. Brendan is a lanky blond while Emily is a pretty, petite brunette. His scenes with her are tender and sweet while his scenes with Tybalt and Paris are frightening at their intensity. Brendan's scenes with the Friar crackle with electricity when he is in despair about what to do after killing Tybalt. Emily has many comic moments with the nurse in the first act but she really shines in the second act when the tragic events envelop Juliet as she learns of Tybalt, her cousin's death and Romeo's banishment and when she awakens to find her true love dead, it rips your heart out. Her argument scenes with her parents are breathtaking when she at first refuses to wed Paris and after she sees the Friar,she returns contrite and apologetic with the potion she has obtained hidden on her person. Their interactions with the other cast members are topnotch. They are very talented freshmen who shine in these huge roles, showing they have a bright future in the theatre.
Two other outstanding performers in this show are Alexander MacIntyre who plays Friar Lawrence and Suzanne Keyes who plays the Nurse.( I have reviewed both of these performers before and they always do marvelous work and this show is no exception.) Their command of Shakespearean dialogue and delivery of their many lines is astounding. Alexander's emotion packed lines are wonderful to listen to as are Suzanne's dramatic and comic lines. She has a wonderful relationship with Emily's character as her protector and confidante and when she becomes devastated at the girl's death it is startling to behold. Suzanne has a funny bit with her dimwitted servant, Peter played perfectly by freshman Kevin Lynch where she yells at him and beats him on the head with a rolled up newspaper. He is hilarious as the nerd-like servant who constantly wears headphones, can't read the invitation list and walks around like Urkel from "Family Matters". Some other powerful performers include Ted Boyce-Smith as Mercutio who is Romeo's friend and confidant and the Prince's cousin (he is a dynamic performer who handles the comic and dramatic moments from his first entrance to his closing lines where Mercutio wishes a plague on both their houses. He is a hoot when he teases the nurse, dropping her as he pretends to kiss her as well as teasing Romeo at the party and when he laughs in Tybalt's face at the knife fight) Sean Carney as the hot headed Tybalt who challenges Romeo to a duel after he crashes the Capulets party and appears as a ghostly specter haunting Juliet in the second act. Thomas Nailor and Samantha Brilhante as Lord and Lady Capulet do terrific work in the show with their commanding speaking voices and get a chance to shine in their argument scene with Juliet.( Her anguish at the death of Tybalt at the end of act one is excellently portrayed.) Sean Reynolds does a wonderful job as Romeo's cousin Benvolio who accompanies him to the party and on his travails throughout the city in the first act. Tom Cotter plays the ill fated Paris who wants to wed Juliet, has a terrific gun fight with Romeo in the crypt and Peter Cunis as the Prince of Verona who speaks to the citizens to behave themselves to no avail, is another commanding presence in the show. So for a trip back to the past, be sure to catch this version of "Romeo and Juliet" at Providence College to see some fabulous acting by talented college students.