Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar has brought an appropriately fresh and young eye to Shakespeare’s timeless romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, even injecting a few contemporary references within the production itself. When Mercutio does not feel his friend is up to a challenge from Tybalt because he is already “dead” – pierced through the heart by Cupid’s arrow for the “hard-hearted wench” Rosaline, he says Romeo is “…shot through the ear with a love song…” The actor, the marvelous Vince Eisenson, “sings” the line in the melody of Bon Jovi’s classic 1986 rock song, “You Give Love A Bad Name,” which opens with the lyric “shot through the heart.”
There is also a sly nod to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Remember the verbal jousting between King Arthur and his men with the French soldiers at the castle? Though ultimately a tragedy, there is a great deal of bawdy humor which balances the sadness perfectly. The result is a very appealing and accessible interpretation of Shakespeare’s love story.
…a very appealing and accessible interpretation of Shakespeare’s love story.
This is CSC’s third presentation of Romeo and Juliet and also marks its 50th show since the company began in 2002. Gallanar and his actors vividly create the emotional rollercoaster of the highs and lows that is a teenager’s world, as well as the compulsive nature of young men itching for a fight – youth and all its extreme passions. It is also a great introduction to Shakespeare for young audience members which was exactly the intent of this company – to establish an annual production of this play for school children in the region, albeit an edited down version to allow for pre-and post-performance activities. Approximately 5,500 students will see this year’s production.
The full-length version of play works just as well for adults too. The story is so well-known – two young lovers from different families fall in love, secretly marry but tragically take own their lives as violence and miscommunication seemingly give them no other options. Romeo and Juliet was most notably reimagined as an award-winning musical on stage and screen (West Side Story) with the young lovers coming from two different ethnic backgrounds in the 1950s. It fit very well as a commentary on prejudice. But it is interesting that Shakespeare never makes it clear why two wealthy families of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues, have such a hatred towards each other.
The set is very minimal but the action moves deftly on the stage. The actors interact with the audience as if collectively, we were a confidant in this romance. The costumes by Kristina Lambdin continue to delight and the fight scenes choreographed by Christopher Niebling are very impressive.
The actors as an ensemble do a wonderful job but there are some notable performances – Juliet’s saucy and loving nurse played by Mimsi Janis and the afore-mentioned Vince Eisenson as Mercutio, cracking wise even as he lays dying. Juilet’s parents, played by Dave Gamble and Molly Moores, are perfectly frustrating – both loving and unreasonable – and Jeff Keough gives a smart performance as Friar Laurence. But it is the young lovers who make it all work. Lauren M. Davis as Juliet and David Mavricos as Romeo remind us of our young selves when we first fell in love or even when we had our first crush – the joy, the rapture, the impatience and sorrow.
CSC’s Romeo and Juliet is a well-paced and relatable production for the Shakespeare novice and lover alike.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Romeo and Juliet runs though May 10, 2015 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets call (410) 244-8570, or purchase online.