Stark, minimalist sets, strong acting, effective choreography and entertaining production combine to make this a performance definitely worth seeing.
By Mackenzie Kristjon Jenkyns
Published January 13, 2015
this article has been updated
Fate has a way of stepping in where it's least expected and nowhere is that more true than in the plays of the Bard. While I was attending the Fringe Festival in 2014, I was also copyediting a novelization of everyone's favourite tragic romance (entitled Madmen Have No Ears by J. Aldric Gaudet). As such, this story has been on my mind since the summer.
For those who are familiar with the "Shakespeare in the Park" style of productions that occur in many cities around here, this version is quite different as it eschews the elaborate costumes and sets that often distract from the text and the actual performance.
This version is stark and unadorned. There are two costumes: black leotards (which represent living people) and white shirts (representing ghosts or dead people). From my spot in the front row, I got the feeling that the wine might have been real!
Generally speaking, the cast members were all entertaining and generally hilarious in their respective roles. Our Romeo (Grant Duarte) and Juliet (Kelly McLaughlin) were flanked by some very comedic performances.
In particular, the drunken Claudia Spadafora (Benvolio) and constantly-drinking Meg Vukelic (Lady Capulet) provided excellent comic relief to the melodrama portrayed by Juliet. Erik Brown's portrayal of Friar Lawrence somehow stuck with me. He had a deadpan quality that was just a little bit zany as well.
The action scenes seemed well-choreographed and made use of not only the stage but the areas around the stage. Often I would have to pull in my feet as the actors leapt from the stage chasing each other with knives.
Riley Alex Ducharme (Mercutio) and Nicole Jedrzejko (Tybalt) did a fantastic job of duelling. Tybalt's hatred of Romeo and his bloodline was palpable as she leapt around the stage practically drooling with rage. How dare Romeo marry Juliet! I was sad to see all these characters die as they were so entertaining.
Luckily, all was not lost as Tybalt comes back in ghost form for parts of Act Two.
As with any tragedy, the audience can see what's coming from a mile off and especially in this case as this play is so famous. Given how well-known the story is, part of the fun is seeing how parts will be staged or presented.
Without needing to say "spoiler alert", suffice it to say that our Romeo and Juliet were believable and sympathetic in the scene where they give their lives. (I always think this is something like The Gift of the Magi gone horribly wrong!)
All in all, this was a very entertaining production and credit must be given to Director Andrea Pohlmann for making it work with such a minimalist production. Definitely worth seeing! It will get you into a certain frame of mind with Valentine's coming next month...
Update: this article originally identified Lady Montague (played by Sydney Stonier) provided comic relief through constant drinking. In fact it was Lady Capulet (played by Meg Vukelic). RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.
In addition, the article has been updated to add a link to the page where you can order tickets online.
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