Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Quintessence Theatre Group and director Alexander Burns offer an innovative look at this tale of tragic love. Intuitive choreography, strong sound design, a dynamic cast, and the intricately coordinated layering of scenes and dialogue make this a Romeo and Juliet to remember.
Kaki Burns' choreography feels natural and the characters can travel in and out of each other's orbit like celestial bodies. Composer and sound designer Steven Cahill's bold effects add vigor to the production. Gun shots and thumping bass lines pull the audience in and shake things up, pounding beats create a late night party, and a few well placed chords add drama and suspense.
Romeo (Connor Hammond) and Juliet (Emiley Kiser) both make convincing teenagers, giving their dialogue a credible enthusiasm. Hammond's spirited performance is great fun to watch. Kiser's charming energy makes her a remarkably sympathetic Juliet and she looks appropriately like a beaming bat mitzvah girl at the Capulets' party. The pair has a sparkling chemistry.
E. Ashley Izard plays Juliet's nurse with earthy good humor and impeccable comic timing. Izard successfully mines the text for every funny line, sigh, and sideways glance. Josh Carpenter brings an exquisite sense of quiet gravity to the role of Friar Laurence. As a matter of fact, there are no weak links in this ensemble production; even characters who deliver only a handful of lines are thoughtfully fleshed out.
The composite sequencesin which the dialogue from two or three different scenes are layered togetherare a highlight of the production. These sequences allow the actors to interact with each other in powerful and unexpected ways. The overlapping lines highlight parallels in the language, revealing patterns in the syntax, diction and music of Shakespeare's poetry. Running simultaneous parallel scenes quickens the tempo of the entire play. The integrated scenes even add clarity to the dialogue by immediately illustrating the impact that actions in one scene have on the characters in subsequent scenes.
The Quintessence Theatre Group's Romeo and Juliet runs through November 7, 2015, at The Sedgwick Theater 7137 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets and other information, visit www.QuintessenceTheatre.org or call 215-987-4450.