If you went to high school in an English-speaking country, chances are you were forced to read “Romeo and Juliet” at one point or another. If you haven’t read it, you’re at least somewhat familiar with one of the many great stage and screen adaptations of the play. Regardless of your previous exposure to Shakespeare’s work, you should make it to the Downspace this weekend to see PW’s production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
With a strong ensemble cast, and some interesting interpretations and directorial choices (for instance, turning ballroom scene into a pseudo-Renaissance rave with some comically raunchy dancing, a pretty homoerotic rendition of Mercutio and Benvolio’s relationship, and a mix of modern formal and punk costuming), “Romeo and Juliet” makes the difficult Shakespearean language come together in a relatable way and successfully tells the story of two young people in love under unfortunate circumstances. The earnestness, energy, and relatability of the performances, injected with humor at the right moments, makes the play both accessible and enjoyable.
The show begins with plumes of smoke covering the stage as Mercutio (Kerry Hall ’13) steps out and delivers the opening lines of the play’s prologue. The rest of the cast gradually joins him on stage, each beginning the prologue themselves as they enter. Their voices come together to form an entrancing, loud mesh that propels the play into action.
Skylar Fox ’15 gave a phenomenal performance as the Mrs. Doubtfire-esque Nurse. His boisterous delivery of his mostly comical lines was perfectly balanced by his believable expressions of sadness and concern during the play’s more serious moments. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Fox stole most of his scenes, but he was very well matched by his castmates, including Nora Rothman ’13 as Juliet. Rothman’s chemistry both with Fox and with Romeo, who is played by Jesse Weil ’16, was impressively natural and made the play’s more familiar romantic scenes feel fresh.
Rothman’s performance towards the beginning is demure and withdrawn, gradually becoming more emotional and open as her romance with Romeo progresses. When she finds out that Romeo has killed her cousin Tybalt, Rothman perfectly portrays conflicting feelings of grief for her cousin and concern for Romeo. For Rothman, these moments of doubt and fear were clear highlights, especially the chilling scene in which Juliet expresses her fear at being left in her family’s tomb while she waits for Romeo.
Weil gives a great performance, being at turns convincingly lovestruck in his scenes with Juliet and bromantic with Mercutio and Benvolio (Sam Keamy-Minor ’16). He and Rothman strike an excellent balance between their caustic first interaction, and their more tender moments before Romeo’s exile. Both have a few brief moments of singing that are definitely not to be missed.
Other standouts include Michelle Migliori ’14 as Montague. Even though she was only on stage for a few scenes, Migliori makes the most of her time—she paints a convincing portrait of a mother concerned for her son. Her delivery is understated, and her physicality is fluid and convincing.
The two servants and ensemble members, played by Marty Strauss ’16 and Uday Shriram ’15, helped to inject some humor into the show. The two feed off each other extremely well, especially in the opening scene.
All in all, the performances, set, and music come together to make a great rendition of a great classic. While the music can sometimes feel a little mismatched, and the show is a little on the long side (it’s Shakespeare, what did you expect?), “Romeo and Juliet” is still an incredibly polished, engaging take on a great classic. So carve out a couple hours and go get cultured Saturday, Sunday, or Monday night. Get tickets here or at the box office one hour before the show.