January 29, 2010
The IRT brings to the stage William Shakespeare's classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet with a tight cast and a modern relevant adaptation. Set in an unnamed Midwest town just after WWII, young caucasian Romeo (Erik Hellman) falls for cute and bouncy African-American Juliet (Claire Aubin Fort) at first sight. Juliet is set to marry older Paris (Brandon Miller) when she first meets Romeo, who is swooning over the unseen Rosaline, at a family dinner. The families and friends of Romeo and Juliet object to their pairing. The objections aren't often clearly stated except for the fact that the Capulet and Montague families do not get along. We are made to assume that the objections are because of difference in race between the two.
The two leads are played very well by the two newcomers to the IRT, but the two best performances are given by Ryan Artzberger as Mercutio and Karen Aldridge as Juliet's Nurse. Mercutio is one of Shakespeare's best written characters and Artzberger delivers, despite the role being slightly redefined and with less dialogue than the original play. Karen Aldridge as the Nurse gets the most laughs and clearly shows her love for her charge, the passionate Juliet. When the nurse finds Juliet apparently dead in bed, we can really feel the loss felt by her, despite what we know of the situation.
Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare's most popular play, bringing out audiences of all ages. It's the play most accesible to an audience put off by the Elizabethan vocabulary and pentameter because Shakespeare is able to show love in its most simple and tragic form, which is universal. This well cast production takes this adaptation and makes it their own.