URI's second show of their season is William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". It is considered to be one of the greatest work's of romantic literature. Written in 1591, it is a story of deep passions which come out as love or violence. Director Peter Sampieri sets the play in the 1850's but it can also be seen as a contemporary play with gang violence, emotionally absent parents, generation gap frustrations, reckless youth and torrid romantic love. Sampieri's 23 member cast deliver the goods especially in the dramatic scenes of Act 2 which leave you in tears with its poignancy.
The first act tended to be very loud in intensity and a bit more melodramatic with some clever comic moments in it but the dynamic second act is what will rivet the audience to their seats and impress seasoned theatre goers with its dramatic power. He is aided in his task with the two story unit set by Cheryl de Wardener which is gorgeous as are the brightly colored costumes by Marilyn Salvatore and the lighting design by Christian Wittwer is excellent especially in the death scenes. The fight choreographer, Norman Beauregard does a fantastic job with the sword fights and pratfalls in this show, all brilliantly carried out by this energetic cast especially by Brett Azar who really looked injured after his pratfalls.
Romeo and Juliet are played excellently by Joe Short and Jillian Blevins. They make the transition from carefree youngsters into dramatic adults beautifully. Joe's scenes with Jillian are tender and sweet while his scenes with the Friar crackle with electricity as her scenes do with her parents, the nurse and the Friar. They interactions with other cast members are topnotch, too. They are two very talented college students who shine in these huge roles, showing they both have a bright future in the theatre.
Two other outstanding performers in this show are Jordan Eastwood as Friar Lawrence and Erin Olsen as the Nurse. Their command of the Shakespearean dialogue and delivery of their many lines is astounding. Jordan's emotion packed lines are wonderful to listen as are Erin's dramatic and comic lines. She has a funny bit with her dimwitted servant, Peter played perfectly by Nile Hawver, where she beats the crap out of him and steps on him twice. Nile displays his guitar playing and wonderful singing voice with two lovely songs in the show. Some other powerful performers include Dan DaCunha as the hot headed Tybalt who challenges Romeo to a duel after he crashes the Capulets party, John Messere and Erin Condry as Lord and Lady Capulet who get to shine in the argument scene with Juliet, Patrick Poole as the ill fated Paris and Geoff Leatham who is a professor at URI, as the Prince of Verona who uses his strong baritone speaking voice to issue commands and decrees to his citizens. So for a trip back to the past, be sure to catch this version of "Romeo and Juliet" at URI to see some topnotch acting by talented college students.