Romeo and Juliet

August 1, 2017

in Plays

Play (1597)
by William Shakespeare

Directed by Allegra Libonati

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
Boston Common, Boston
July 19 – August 6, 2017

Scenic Design: Julia Noulin-Mérat, Costume Design: Neil Fortin; Lighting Design: Jamie Roderick; Sound Design: David Remedios, Choreography: Peter DiMuro; Fight Director: Angie Jepson

With Gracyn Mix (Juliet), John Zdrojeski (Romeo), Ramona Lisa Alexander (Nurse), Brandon G. Green (Benvolio), Bario Marcel (Mercutio), Equiano Mosieri (Friar Laurence), Celeste Oliva (Lady Capulet), Mark Soucy (Lord Montague), Fred Sullivan Jr. (Lord Capulet), Kai Tshikosi (Tybalt), Adam Ewer (Paris), Chris Everett (Lady Montague), Alex Deroo (Friar John), Cassie Foote (Citizen), Tim Hckney (Samson), Keith Hale (Peter), Kaci Hamilton (Prince Escalus), Jamil Joseph (Gregory), Stephanie King (Citizen), Sarah Mass (Citizen), Andrew Prensky (Apothecary), Joey Tyler (Balthasar)

Romeo and Juliet

John Zdrojeski as Romeo
Gracyn Mix as Juliet
in “Romeo and Juliet”
Photo: Evgeni Eliseeva
Courtesy of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

A colorful, scintillating, and wonderfully acted account of the classic tale of a searingly unexpected passion and its attendant woes.

Though this wonderfully designed and acted account of the great tragedy is filled with elegantly colorful costumes (by Neil Fortin), the opening scene features a stripped down Romeo (John Zdorjeski) and Juliet (Gracyn Mix) facing one another on a central podium as though that bareness and vulnerability, in the end, were what characterized the clue to their relationship. It’s a beautiful touch and one that doesn’t quite echo fully until one sees how elaborately adorned they and their supporting cast are during the rest of the production which reveals its substantial charms as the sun sets and the evening unfolds upon the Boston Common.

This is, after all, the story of love against all odds, and of that which reveals itself to its fated lovers beyond the adornments of the particular circles in which each of them travels.

Abundantly colorful and staged upon a suggestively intricate set of Gothic elements designed by Julia Noulin-Mérat, this production of a play that is so frequently performed that one might easily turn it into a hackneyed bore, bears no traits of that liability and alternatively communicates, with effectiveness, the courageous earnestness with which its two young heroes pursue the instructions of their hearts against the prevailing familial winds.

Interestingly, both Juliet and Romeo are portrayed as somewhat salty, a bit rough around the edges, not insufferably sweet, demure and perfect. Gracyn Mix’s Juliet, in particular, has a tremendous amount of gusto and Mix swings her lines not as frail emblems of a victimized passion but as a forcefully presented manifesto of powerful feeling. Joh Zdrojeski’s Romeo also has an edge, but one that manages, as well, enough of a boyish vivacity and innocence to complement Juliet’s demonstrative verve. Both performances are compelling and engaging.

The supporting cast is also very good.

Bario Marcel’s Mercutio is right out there, a resplendently comedic portrayal that gives good sense to the character’s risky vulnerability. Outspoken and brash, playing it off the cuff, Marcel’s Mercutio is a wit and a wise guy, pulling it all off with energetic pizzazz.

Kai Tshikosi’s Tybalt, on the other hand, is a pure heavy, and he too does that very well, with a declarative potency and a vindictive edge. One certainly understands how he’s the guy who pounces on Mercutio and raises Romeo’s ire.

Brandon G. Green’s Benvolio is a nice, folksy counterpart to Romeo, giving, especially at the beginning, good weight to the introductory buddy elements that figure around Romeo’s pining for the unseen and soon to be forgotten Rosaline.

Even the smaller roles have good accounts. Fred Sullivan Jr’s Lord Capulet gave a great soliloquy in the second half which received deserved applause. Lady Capulet, even with just a few words as envisioned by the powerful and charismatic Celeste Oliva, packs a punch. Mark Soucy’s Lord Montague, as well, in abbreviated messages, gets his point across cogently and distinctively.

Equiano Mosieri’s Friar Laurence, who introduces the action and fills in throughout, delivers a down to earth and folksy touch.

Ramona Lisa Alexander’s Nurse is a hammed up but appealing portrayal, giving a comedic dimension, as do, quite effectively, so many of the other elements in this production. Unlike the later great tragedies, there is no distinctively comedic group in Romeo and Juliet, so it is indeed relevant and appropriate that many of the main characters take up that slack which they do eloquently well here. One is inclined to forget, in the echoes of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, how vividly witty the lines are; it is a sad and poignant play but also very sharp.

Lighting and sound are both very well done, providing additional focus and substance to this energetic and carefully wrought production of this early, great Shakespearean classic.

The play is cast in with an appealingly multicultural sensibility, underlining the significance of this tale about destructive contentiousness within contemporary fraught political landscapes.

– BADMan

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