The Acting Company and Guthrie Theater get it right in Shakespeare's quintessential love storyApril 23, 2010
THEATER REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet @ Annenberg Center, 4/21Friday, April 23rd, 2010 posted by Alexandra Harcharek
Critical Mass: City Paper's Arts and Entertainment BlogDid my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I neer saw true beauty till this night.
Teenage love is anything but subtle. The story of Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet is the quintessential love story, adapted and readapted year after year. Luckily, The Acting Company and The Guthrie Theater seem to have gotten it right. The two Tony award-winning acting companies are taking over the Annenberg Centers stage this week with a traveling production of Romeo and Juliet.
The classic play, directed by Penny Metropulos, stays true to the Bards words, but everything else has a subtly modern treatment. Fair Verona is cleverly staged in Edwardian-era Italy, with understated details that delight. Gone are the ruffled costumes, replaced by snappy suits and flat caps. The party scene in which the star-crossed kiddies first meet is peppered with contemporary details: Guests swing to music warbling from a phonograph, fireworks light up the night sky, ladies dance in glittering gowns.
Shakespeares poetry, often dense and difficult to understand for the casual audience, is punctuated by cheeky humor and delivered with confidence. Sonny Valicenti and Laura Esposito are well paired as Romeo and Juliet. In their hands, tender moments like the desperately sweet balcony scene are convincing and heartbreaking.
The rest of the ensemble is strong, with spirited, innuendo-laden performances by Elizabeth Stahlmann as the Nurse, and William Studivant as Mercutio, who injected hormone-driven bravado in every scene. Watch out for Myxolydia Tyler as Perrin; shes got one hell of a scream. Espositos voice easily swings from a dreamy girlish whisper, clutching at her chest when speaking of the moon and stars, to a petulant 13-year-old, when demanding news of her dearest loverboy. Equally, Valincentis overdone swooning and inconsolable moaning reminds me of those crushing teenage years now thankfully well in the past.