Review: ROMEO & JULIET at The Company Theatre

Now through October 29th.

By: Oct. 20, 2023
Review: ROMEO & JULIET at The Company Theatre

One of Rochester’s newest performing arts organizations, The Company Theatre, launches its 2023-2024 season with a well-known stalwart, “Romeo and Juliet”, playing until the end of October in Rochester’s Temple Theatre.

Operating on the assumption that one of the most famous dramatical works in the Western world doesn’t need a “spoiler alert”, here’s a quick plot synopsis: An age-old vendetta between two powerful families erupts into bloodshed. A group of masked Montagues risk further conflict by gatecrashing a Capulet party. A young lovesick Romeo Montague (Calvin Staropoli) falls instantly in love with Juliet Capulet (Ariana Kizu Rivera), who is due to marry her father’s choice, the County Paris. With the help of Juliet’s nurse (Lauren MacDonough), the women arrange for the couple to marry the next day, but Romeo’s attempt to halt a street fight leads to the death of Juliet’s own cousin, Tybalt (Ben Gillooly), for which Romeo is banished. In a desperate attempt to be reunited with Romeo, Juliet follows the Friar’s (Judy McCaffrey) plot and fakes her own death. The message fails to reach Romeo, and believing Juliet dead, he takes his life in her tomb. Juliet wakes to find Romeo’s corpse beside her and kills herself. The grieving family agrees to end their feud.

Given that his works have become something of a blank canvas to modern theatremakers, the tendency seems to be that every Shakespeare production must totally reinvent the setting and trappings of the story. I couldn’t begin to tally the number of Shakespeare productions I’ve seen that were modernized in some unnecessary way; as a 1950’s sitcom, or with sci-fi aesthetics, or with the cast in full military regalia for no apparent reason, or with R&J’s most popular rendering starring Leonardo DiCaprio, on the sunny beaches of California! More often than not, these modifications do little to enhance the story and provide a lot of clutter and distraction from the play’s themes and character arcs (“West Side Story” is the obvious exception here, all hail Leonard Bernstein).

I say all this because the aforementioned trap is one that The Company Theatre does NOT fall into. Their production hues to the traditional setting and aesthetics of Romeo & Juliet, with effects, sound, music, and staging that add a modern flair and an infusion of intrigue.

Director Carl Del Buono provides some of the best sound design I’ve experienced in any Shakespeare production, professional or otherwise. His selection of music (most of it modern folk, acoustic, and indie) perfectly aligns with what’s happening on stage, and his use of sound effects enhances the danger, suspense, and sorrow experienced by the audience.

Speaking of professional-grade work, this R&J’s staging and fight choreography is definitely a cut above that of a typical community theatre production. A huge shout out to Rich Steele and Lauren MacDonough for swordplay and fight sequences that are intense and highly believable.

On the acting front, Ariana Kizu Rivera is the production’s standout, bringing us a Juliet who is passionate and mesmerizing, distraught and sorrowful, all while avoiding another common Shakespeare pitfall: over-acting. Kizu Rivera brings the perfect amount of thoughtfulness and nuance to her Juliet, and it is a joy to watch.

And to top it all off, The Company Theatre’s performance space is stunning, the historic Temple Theatre in the Liberty Pole neighborhood of downtown Rochester, featuring a massive stage, cathedral ceilings, and beautiful architecture, with the only downside being that the sprawling space has a tendency to swallow the dialogue if the actors aren’t intentional about projecting (or if there are microphone glitches, as there always are in any production). Somehow in my 6+ years of covering Rochester theatre I’ve never heard of, or been in, this gorgeous venue; I can’t wait to return.

The Company Theatre’s production of “Romeo & Juliet” is haunting and memorable, a unique take on one of the Bard’s most well-known works. It’s playing until October 29th, for tickets and more information Click Here.

BroadwayWorld Awards Voting

RELATED STORIES - Central New York

CENTERstage Productions to Hold Open Auditions for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Photo
CENTERstage Productions to Hold Open Auditions for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

AUDITIONS for Little Shop of Horrors - Hudson Valley. Open auditions for the musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, with performances in May 2024.

CENTERstage Productions to Present CABARET This Winter Photo
CENTERstage Productions to Present CABARET This Winter

CENTERstage Productions presents 'Cabaret,' a captivating musical set in the vibrant and tumultuous Berlin of 1932. Learn how to purchase tickets!

Caroga Arts Collective Unveils 2023 CLMF WinterFest Lineup Photo
Caroga Arts Collective Unveils 2023 CLMF WinterFest Lineup

Caroga Arts Collective Announces 2023 CLMF WinterFest Lineup featuring an exciting array of performances and collaborations.

Composers Concordances ECLECTIC BANDS Returns in January Photo
Composers Concordance's ECLECTIC BANDS Returns in January

On Saturday, January 6th, 2024 at 8pm at Silvana, Composers Concordance presents the next installment of its Eclectic Bands series. At a charming uptown venue featuring delicious food and drinks, diverse musical groups assemble for an evening of wide-ranging music, presented in quick tandem.

From This Author - Colin Fleming-Stumpf

Colin Fleming-Stumpf is a native of Rochester, has acted on stages across Western New York, and is active in the local theatre community as a performer, musician, fundraiser, board member, and reviewe... Colin Fleming-Stumpf">(read more about this author)


Hairspray (Non-Equity) in Central New York Hairspray (Non-Equity)
Landmark Theatre (1/30-2/03)
One-Act Jamboree in Central New York One-Act Jamboree
Capital Repertory Theatre (6/06-6/16)
Mean Girls (Non-Equity) in Central New York Mean Girls (Non-Equity)
Stanley Center for the Arts [Stanley Theatre] (5/13-5/14)
Les Miserables in Central New York Les Miserables
Proctor's Theatre (3/19-3/24)
Three Mothers in Central New York Three Mothers
Capital Repertory Theatre (4/26-5/12)
Annie (Non-Equity) in Central New York Annie (Non-Equity)
Proctor's Theatre (1/09-1/14)
A Special Production for Black History Month in Central New York A Special Production for Black History Month
Capital Repertory Theatre (2/01-2/11)
Broadway Museum Revisits Musicals in Central New York Broadway Museum Revisits Musicals
Breathing Storytellers (3/13-4/12)
Legally Blonde in Central New York Legally Blonde
Park Playhouse (7/16-8/18)
Hairspray (Non-Equity) in Central New York Hairspray (Non-Equity)
Forum Theatre (1/23-1/24)

Recommended For You