Romeo and Juliet, two teens hopelessly in love but separated by a family feud struggle against insurmountable forces to find peace and happiness in the timeless William Shakespeare classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, now playing for a limited engagement at the Just Off Broadway Theater.
Just Off Broadway Theater hosts Shakespeare’s most well loved and performed tragic love story, playing at 8 p.m., Fri-Sat, Mon.; 2 p.m. Sun, Sept. 13-22 , and produced by She&Her Productions.
Most know the story of Romeo and Juliet that William Shakespeare wrote early in his career. The story centers on two young people from rival families that fall helplessly in love. Shakespeare’s story concerns two young, star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families.
“It was among Shakespeare's most popular plays during his lifetime and, along with Hamlet, is one of his most frequently performed plays. Today, the title characters are regarded as archetypal young lovers,” Tiffany Schweigert, producer said.
Romeo and Juliet, being in their young teens, should not be played by anyone older than 25, Schweigert said. That being the case she found her perfect couple in the persons of Joseph Bricker, a high school senior, and Katherine Dick, a college student.
Rival families, similar to current rival gangs, begin the play with sword fights, street vulgarities, finger gestures and the tone of immense hatred for the opposite families create the backbone of Romeo and Juliet. Teenage love and passion come to play with the lead characters, portrayed by Bricker and Dick on first meeting. The delivery of lines, coupled with the reaction to each other sets the story in motion. From the beginning, Romeo and Juliet comes to life.
Both Bricker and Dick give strong performances and speak Shakespeare’s lines with authority. They both bring the story of young love and unbridled passion with their performances. It’s easy to forget these are amateur performing the Bard’s work. They capture the notion and emotion of young love.
Another performance, worthy of note, Benvolio, Richard Burt, sets the tone from his first narrative entrance and his delivery and acting stays true to his character throughout the play. His understanding of the words, poetry, and emotion of Shakespeare is very evident.
The comedy in the show comes from two characters, the likeable Mercutio, Garrett Lawson, and Juliet’s nurse, Michelle Stelting. Stelting brings comedy with her doting and sometimes over emotional character. Her actions and vocal delivery elicit smiles and her acting remains consistent throughout the performance. Lawson gives Mercutio a broad and bawdy character with his gyrations, sexually suggestive props, and gestures. He’s funny to watch and his actions help audiences understand the Bard’s comedic inserts in the tragedy.
Two other performers in the cast bring characters with strong stage presence to the production, as Capulet, Dean Kinsey, and as Friar Laurence, Michael Juncker. Both men deliver strong characters that keep the play moving and help build the emotion for the final act. Each possesses definite on stage presence.
This production of Romeo and Juliet should be seen mature students because of the sexual gestures and gyrations may not be appropriate for all ages. The production does expound the bawdy side of Shakespeare, sometimes to excess in this production. Romeo and Juliet traditionally appeared in student anthologies, so many middle school students and high school students know the story, but do not know Shakespeare’s penchant for encouraging sexual content for the amusement of his audiences.
“This classic story of star crossed lovers is, arguably, the most read and performed of all
of the Bard’s works. This is for good reason,” Jeremy Riggs, director said. “Scholars praise it as the most beautiful of all the Shakespearean plays. Audiences love it because it speaks so clearly to our hearts about a subject that is near and dear to all of us.”
Rival families, and similar to current rival gangs begin the play with swordfishes, street vulgarities, finger gestures and the tone of immense hatred for the opposite family. Teenage love and passion come to play with the lead characters, portrayed by Bricker and Dick on first meeting. The delivery of lines the reaction to each other sets the story in motion. From the beginning, Romeo and Juliet comes to life.
“The idea that love can persist against all obstacles, but the reason that it still persists is because it asks some tough questions about love, sex, family bonds, revenge and duty. These are all human traits that are explored in Romeo and Juliet and can give all of us cause to think and perhaps apply its lessons to our own lives,” Riggs said.
The director’s concept of the play differs greatly from any cinema version of the story. Any and all glamor are replaced with street scenes, every day, visions. Shakespeare’s audiences were not the noble, but more the common man. As such, Riggs altered the preconceived notion with a more gritty concept. He did play upon Shakespeare’s use of comedy and physical humor, but sometimes in too broad of visuals. The first half is lighter and fun while the second half delves deeply into the sadness and tragedy of the lovers. Overall, his concept is acceptable.
The non-equity cast deserves praise for their dedication of time, memorization, acting, and rehearsal to bring the classic to life. It’s true, Shakespeare should be seen and not just read. Performances bring the story to a fuller life and understanding of the audience.
The cast consists of: House of Montague: Romeo, Joseph Bricker; Montague, Michael Masterson; Lady Montague, Elizabeth Hillman; Benvolio, Richard Burt; Balthasar, Chelsea Rolfes; Abraham, Christian Johanning. House of Capulet: Juliet, Katherine Dick; Capulet, Dean Kinsey; Lady Capulet, Angela Zieber; Nurse, Michelle Stelting; Tybalt, Jake Smith; Sampson, Katie Lee; Gregory, Alex Roschitz; Peter, Matthew Sweeten; Tybalt’s Page, Vincent Polito; Capulet Servant, Rowan Riggs; Capulet Musician, Keely Siefers. House of Escalus: The Queen, Lindsay Roland; Paris, Joseph Carr; Mercutio, Garrett Lawson; Paris’s Page, Vincent Polito. The Town of Verona: Friar Laurence, Michael Juncker; Watchman / Friar John, Bethany Hall; Watchman /Apothecary, Christian Johanning; Citizen, Dvonna Riggs.
Tickets cost $12-$15. The theater, Just Off Broadway Theatre, is located at: 3051 Central
Street, (816) 405-9200, For more information, check the website: sheandherproductions.com.