Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Romeo And Juliet"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark


"Romeo And Juliet"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Justin Budinoff

Set Design by David DaCosta
Costume Design by Heather Chaffee
Lighting design by Artie Leger
Fight Director Meron Langsner
Choreography by Laurie Fisher
Producer Ray Seivwright
Stage Manager & Assistant Director Janet Raskin

Sampson....................Jeff Trigilio
Gregory....................Steven M. Key
Abraham....................Patrick Hayes
Balthasar.......Noel Gabrielle Armstrong
Benvolio................Michael DeMinico
Tybalt................Christophe Hawkins
Lord Capulet.................Peter Brown
Lady Capulet.............Christine Power
Lord Montague.........Paul O'Shaughnessy
Lady Montague...............Tracy Nygard
Second Capulet.............Paul Campbell
Prince.....................David DaCosta
Romeo.....................John D. Morton
Paris........................John Boller
Juliet................Nora Jane Williams
Nurse.........................Anna Brown
Mercutio......................Dan Mincle
Peter........................Keith Junas
Friar Laurence................Bill Salem
Apothecary.................Patrick Hayes
Friar John.................Paul Campbell
First Watch..................Keith Junas
Second Watch................Tracy Nygard
Third Watch...Emma Rose Stoskopf-Ehrlich
Ensemble
Noel Gabrielle Armstrong, Paul Campbell, Steven M. Key, Tracy Nygard, Emma Rose Stoskopf-Ehrlich, Patrick Hayes, Jeff Trigilio, Karen Wepsic

The last week of "12th Night" by The Hovey Players coincided with the first of "Romeo And Juliet" by The Footlight Club --- both giving proof that community theater is alive and well and takes a back seat to no one on the local theatrical scene. Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, these two very different productions were as exciting, insightful and original as Shakespeare gets, yet neither found it necessary to violate The Bard's intent as other, richer, bigger companies hereabout often do. And the good news is that "R & J" will play one more week-end in the oldest theatre in America, getting better and better as the passionate tale unfolds.

The theatre-spaces couldn't be more different. The Abbott Memorial in Waltham seats 52, and Director John MacKenzie actually invited the audience into the intimate production, giving them a sing-along chorus for one of the comedy's boysterous songs. Eliot Hall, on the other hand, is a big auditorium with a wide proscenium-arch perfectly suited to Director Justin Budinoff's feel for space and spectacle, superb swordsmanship (Thank you Meron Langsner!), tempestuous young love, and the rituals of tragedy. In two places, four actors holding big square fans before them present a wall, shifting action and dialogue out of David DaCosta's balconied courtyard that Artie Leger's lights can also carve into lighted intimacies or expand for crowd-scenes.

As the ill-fated lovers, John D. Morton and Nora Jane Williams are perfectly matched, as changeable as the moon but given in toto to every emotion. (They are like teen-agers out of "Grease" made sublime by poetry.) Williams' initially dutiful daughter flairs to an eager wanton in love's bonfire, while Morton dumps his unrequiting Rosalind for the dangerous daughter worth his dying for.

In this Fooghtlight Club production, however, the true surprises come from supporting roles. For instance, Anna Brown's Nurse and Bill Salem's Friar Laurence emerge as this pair's surrogate parents, loving and sympathizing so with their tempestuous young passions that, by subterfuge and strategem they try to unite the two, with disastrous results.

And Christopher Hawkins' Tybalt, whose hatred is as single-minded and dangerous as his sword, proves a perfect match against Dan Minkle's mad Mercutio. Fight Director Meron Langsner has them have at each other with a seriousness that has none of the "let's not get hurt" safety that deflates a lot of on-stage fencing. And, following the script, their set-to does indeed bring on a shocking death.

But it is, at last, in the Capulet tomb that this famous pair unite in youthful death --- where, after the last tears, the line of twenty-one players bowing to deserved applause stretches the wide width of Eliot Hall's stage.

Weeks before in Waltham fifteen players also stretched their smaller stage after a bubbly, boysterous romp. Nearly every character in "What You Will" plays tricks on someone else, with the pompous almost willingly ripe for pricking, and this entire Hovey Players' ensemble seemed eagerly in on the jokes. Taking his cue from the fact that Shakespeare purloined the popular melodies of the day for his new lyrics, MacKenzie punctuated these giddy plots with quotes off today's CDs. The musicians "played on" throughout the evening, as everyone in the cast accepted Shakespeare as a contemporary writer with a pretty wit, just as the audience accepted them.

These two productions --- plus another "12th Night" by The Vokes Players in Wayland --- bring the tragedy and comedy and sheer humanity of Shakespeare to audiences of the twenty-first century. Exactly where he should be.

Love,
===Anon.


"Romeo And Juliet" (28 March - 12 April)
THE FOOTLIGHT CLUBS
Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN, MA
(617) 524-3200


"12th Night" or "What You Will" (14 - 29 March)
HOVEY PLAYER
Abbott Memorial Theater, 9 Spring Street, WALTHAM, MA
(781) 893-917


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