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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Romeo and Juliet

Also see Susan's review of Dr. Cook's Garden

The Shakespeare Theater Company's production of Romeo and Juliet lavishly fills the broad spaces of Washington's Sidney Harman Hall, but remains emotionally remote. Director David Muse has taken a formal approach to the material, including having the entire cast present several of the speeches of exposition directly to the audience in the manner of a Greek chorus.

Muse returns to the custom of William Shakespeare's own time by casting the female roles with men; he plays up the artifice by bringing out the actors in costume, but without wigs or headdresses, for the opening speech. The leading performances are good enough that one never thinks about the sex of the performers after becoming used to James Davis having a throatier, darker vocal quality than the usual Juliet.

Davis conveys both the youth and the passion of Juliet without ever slipping into caricature, and he is a good match with Finn Wittrock's callow, openly emotional Romeo. Other standouts are Aubrey Deeker as a bravura Mercutio; Drew Eshelman, finding every drop of bawdy humor in the role of Juliet's Nurse; Ted van Griethuysen as a more self-satisfied Friar Lawrence than in many productions (he seems to believe that, by marrying Juliet to Romeo, he will end the Capulet-Montague feud singlehandedly); and Hubert Point-Du Jour as an eminently sensible Benvolio.

The fight direction by Robin McFarquhar deserves special mention for its ingenuity and intensity, but despite the very physical production—the young men wrestle among themselves and jump up and down when they aren't fighting—and the constant motion of the large cast, the play remains intellectually stimulating rather than moving. Muse is juggling several different dramatic components here, with three onstage musicians providing live accompaniment composed by The Broken Chord Collective.

The physical production shows the company's usual polish. Scott Bradley's scenic design places a balcony on top of a series of low arches, and the floor draws the eye with its elaborate sunburst mosaic. Lap Chi Chu has created an atmospheric lighting design, using hanging bulbs to simulate both decorative lights and stars, and Jennifer Moeller's costumes shimmer with rich colors and sumptuous textures.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Romeo and Juliet September 9th October 12th
By William Shakespeare
Capulet, head of a Veronese family: Dan Kremer
Lady Capulet, wife of Capulet: Tom Beckett
Juliet, daughter of Capulet: James Davis
Tybalt, nephew of Capulet: Cody Nickell
Nurse to Juliet: Drew Eshelman
Peter, servant to the Capulets: Jeffrey Kuhn
Sampson, servant to the Capulets: Scott Hamilton Westerman
Gregory, servant to the Capulets: Nathan Bennett
Montague, head of a Veronese family: Lawrence Redmond
Lady Montague, wife of Montague: Jeffrey Kuhn
Romeo, son of Montague: Finn Wittrock
Benvolio, nephew of Montague and friend to Romeo: Hubert Point-Du Jour
Abram, servant to the Montagues: Christopher Ryan Grant
Escalus, Prince of Verona: Craig Wallace
Mercutio, kinsman to the Prince and friend to Romeo: Aubrey Deeker
Paris, a count, kinsman to the Prince: Tyrone Mitchell Henderson
Friar Lawrence, of the Franciscan Order: Ted van Griethuysen
Friar John, of the Franciscan Order: Matthew Carlson
An Apothecary: Tom Beckett
Musicians: Matthew Carlson, Dan Crane, Christopher Ryan Grant
Ensemble: Daniel Eichner, Billy Finn, Carl Holder, Dan Lawrence, Jon Reynolds
Directed by David Muse
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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