BWW Review: ROMEO AND JULIET Enthralls with Uniqueness
This past weekend, Actors from the London Stage for Shakespeare at Notre Dame put on a unique rendition of William Shakespeare's classic, Romeo and Juliet. Taking place on a mostly barren stage except for a mixture of props, clothing items, and some chairs, five actors, dressed in plain clothing, played 21 characters among themselves in the star-crossed lover's drama. The production was absolutely captivating, from start to finish; that's because the unusual structure in which this timeless story was told, and was unquestionably successful.
It's hard not to wonder, with Shakespeare already being considered confusing for most people, how enjoyable this show was going to be when you added in the roller coaster of five people playing 21 diverse characters. Before the start of the actual story, the actors performed a comical bit pointing out all the different props and accoutrements that would be used for the show and what their general purpose would be. They also gave a little taste, along with a brief add-on costume change, of each character that was in the show - a blessing, as it put more than a few things into framework before the seemingly complex show began.
The five-person cast was a definite success, and not a hindrance, because being able to tell who was playing who in any given scene was not an issue at all, as each actor was exceptionally skilled and talented and therefore differentiating between the characters (even when actors switched between them simultaneously) was not difficult at all. The five actors embodied each character wholly, with voices, physical attributes, habits, and more, elected to each character. They also slipped into each character with ease, never faltering in the commitment to each one, even if they were only played for a few moments. They were well-paced in their speech, loud in their volume, and very easily understood. Even more impressive was that the actors played characters for only a few moments, they could muster up intense emotions as if the character had been there the entire time, and had been building up emotions for a while. The grandeur of their performances, even if stripped of production embellishments, was so well done that even someone who might struggle with the heavy language could be completely enticed and captivated.
What's even greater is that even though Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, this production of it was funny, if not hilarious, at times. The actors played up the comedy that could be gleaned from Shakespeare's words and even added their own, without devaluing the quality of the intense drama. The humor was a welcome choice, since the show is so heavy.
Another testament to the highly artistic group were their choices outside of Shakespeare's words. Whether it was captivating sword fights, cleverly used props, or a whole dance sequence to a modern song, there wasn't a moment to be found where you weren't utterly captivated by the groups creativity.
The only negative thing that could be said for Romeo and Juliet is that there were not more performances of it. The actor's renditions were so powerful and the production so creative, that it should have run a few more times to allow more people to see such a great piece of theatre. Hopefully, Shakespeare at Notre Dame and the Actors from the London Stage keep up the same stunning quality of work. Be sure to watch out for more productions in hopes of catching the next incredible show.
Photo Credit: Peter Ringenberg