BWW Revieiws: Shakespeare's Cheeky ROMEO AND JULIET Staged by First Stage Young Company
As one of the first fully produced Young Company productions, Fist Stage and their First Stage Theater Academy presents this premiere organization of high school talent in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet at Milwaukee's Golda Meir School. The production marks a collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts and their program Shakespeare for a New Generation in an effort to expose teens to the wonders of the classic literature.
First Stage performed the timeless Shakespeare tragedy in the Rosa Parks Auditorium at Golda Meir School, part of the Milwaukee Public School System's charter program under Young Company Director John Maclay. As Director of the special performances, Maclay offered several astute comments after the first showing this week, for high school students. FS Young Company provides extensive actor training while students finish high school and compete in the Utah Shakespeare Festival for High School Acting Competition. First Stage Young Company usually garners an award in top three places for the last seven years, while in several competitions capturing first place.
Limited evening performances begin this weekend, only Friday and Saturday on the weekend of May 16 and 17. After the school performance, Maclay commented, "That Shakespeare was meant to be seen and heard instead of merely read. So this [the performance] supplements a high school English class."
"Romeo and Juliet presents truthful characters...people we can recognize. Teenagers can see themselves in this play, " Maclay continues. "Realize the actual truth in these moments, of these relationships in his enduring, brilliant stories."
The enduring story of two families in Verona consumed with revenge and hate for a little known feud reverberates into unspeakable violence, which are events continued in the modern world. When the public considers how many youth can be influenced by violence, hate instead of tolerance and understanding, Shakespeare's relevance persists.
They Young Company Capulet cast performed Tuesday in a tender performance rife with humor, a cheeky irreverence to Shakespeare's familiar lines. Conian Ledwith's Romeo matches brooding, appeal with genuine impatience for his love. In the part of the 13 year old Juliet, Mary Elsa Henrichs implies her innocent belief in love that rebels against her parent's, especially her father's, orders to marry the older Paris. Certainly characters or situations teenagers can recognize in their own lives.
Joseph Schwalb impart s macho vibe to Mercutio while Alison Pogerlic adds that feminine touch to Benvolio, those compatriots who support Romeo. An accomplished adult cast acts in the production while mentoring the young company, including a witty Marcella Kearns as Juliet's Nurse and the faithful Matthew Wickey as Friar Lawrence.
In a city rampant with exceptional weekend events, please take the time to honor First Stage and their admirable youth, a gifted First Stage Young Company. The fresh interpretation to Romeo and Juliet, a play about teenagers acted by teenagers, relates Shakespeare's story with an innocent and impetuous attitude that infers a deeper meaning to the Bard's poetry. A story that continually reminds the audience "hate can kill one's joys where all might be punished." The Young Company's limited performances run May 13-22 at Milwaukee's Golda Meir School in the Rosa Parks Auditorium. (For information or tickets about First Stage or Young Company, please visit: www.firststage.org)