Make plans to attend a performance of Great Lakes Theater's Romeo & Juliet before it closes on April 28th. It's a must-see production that brings one of William Shakespeare's most enduring plays to vivid life in the intimate setting of the Hanna Theatre.
The tale is one everyone is familiar with – Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers – fall in love despite the fact they are the children of two feuding families. Their tale ends in tragedy when a series of duels forces them apart … but ultimately reunites them in death.
Christian Durso and Betsy Mugavero are perfection as the young couple. Durso's Romeo is a handsome dreamer. Mugavero's Juliet is full of youthful excitement. Both embody their characters whole-heartedly and take the audience on a journey of love and heartbreak. Romeo is introduced as a young man in search of something more in life – he wants love and fulfillment, something he finds in spades when he meets Juliet. Juliet is barely a teenager and her parents are already set on having her married. They just didn't expect it to be a secret marriage to the son of their enemy. Through the exquisite, palpable chemistry of Durso and Mugavero, you believe Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight. You feel their hope and determination that their relationship with transcend the warring Montague and Capulet families. You witness their joy quickly turn to anger, sadness and frustration when the world around them starts to spiral out of control and pulls them apart.
Other notable performances come from Laurie Birmingham as the Nurse, J. Todd Adams as Mercutio and Lynn Robert Berg as Friar Laurence. The Nurse's relationship with Juliet is loving and supportive, and the actresses play off of each other like they've been friends for years. Adams plays Mercutio with a self-assured, cocky irreverence, but also makes him a loyal friend to Romeo. Berg gives a tender performance, helping the young lovers try to negotiate the obstacles barricading their relationship.
Charles Fee's direction is spot-on. The audience is taken on an emotional roller coaster and while Romeo & Juliet is almost three hours long, it never drags and the time flies by. The play is constantly moving, complete with joyous high points, heartbreaking low points and several moments of comedy. Shakespeare's language can be hard to digest but Fee infuses true emotion and intent into each scene so knowing exactly what the dialogue means isn't necessary – the actors' voices and expressions make it clear.
The classic tale is set against a backdrop of a war-torn post-World War I city. Gage Williams' set is a damaged (yet gorgeous) Renaissance building fronted by scaffolding, which provides multiple levels for the action to take place. Costume designer Star Moxley has dressed in the cast in 1920s era outfits colored in multiple shades of grey. Romeo and Juliet, however, are dressed in muted shades of purple, making them stand out from the crowd.
A Shakespeare play wouldn't be complete without sword fights and Ken Merckx has choreographed them brilliantly. The action is fast and furious and very realistic. Tybalt and Mercutio's deadly duel in the second part of the show uses all levels of the set and is a mix of fierceness and amusement.
Romeo & Juliet has a limited number of performances left and, in a small, intimate theatre, tickets are sure to go fast. Don't miss out on this stellar production that will leave you fulfilled and heart-broken, all at the same time.
Great Lakes Theater's production of Romeo & Juliet continues its run through April 28th. Evening performances are at 7:30pm, with Saturday matinees at 1:30pm and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Two special pre-show discussions – "Raising Romeo & Juliet" and "Science of Attraction" – are scheduled for April 22nd (1:30pm) and 27th (6pm), respectively.