romeo-juliet-marin-shakespeare-2014ROMEO & JULIET
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Lesley Schisgall Currier
For tickets / schedule :
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California

RUN: July 26 – September 28, 2014
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(August 17, 2014)

Possibly the most famous and lyrically poetical of Shakespeare’s plays, Romeo & Juliet has been seen in many forms. From high school stages to the sweeping musical masterpiece West Side Story, the tale has been spun in all sorts of depictions in the theatre. Marin Shakespeare’s production brings an Elizabethan simplicity to the play, mingling the bawdy comedic elements with darker emotional aspects of The Bard’s genius. Costume Designer Abra Berman and Set Designer Jackson Currier have created a stark palette of white and black, reminiscent of a chessboard, with silver greys gradiating in between, a visual depiction of the play’s themes. I have seen all sorts of color schemes used in conjunction with Romeo & Juliet before, but none struck me with such force as this one in its powerful simplicity.

The acting is the highest quality I have seen from Marin Shakespeare in several years—the entire cast pulls their weight, fully invested in their roles. Even Lady Montague (Catherine Ostler Bearden) who says barely a word, drew me into her character to the point where I felt sorry to hear she had died. Her counterpart Lady Capulet (Marcia Pizzo) marched through with the elegant disgust of Cersei Lannister, with an equal affinity for a cup of wine. Boistrous Mercutio (Jackson Currier) captured the audience with his antics, and equally so all the young men in the production. Bearing up the comedy on the female side was Juliet’s Nurse (Debi Durst) whose portrayal of a beloved friend who talks rather too much was spot on. Indeed, one of the refreshing things about the production is not shying away from bringing out the comedy. All too often, Romeo & Juliet is portrayed as a tragedy from beginning to end, whereas Marin Shakespeare’s production was closer to the feel of Guardians of the Galaxy, with a mix of action and comedy mingled with heartbreak and sorrow.

romeo juliet marin shakespeare swordfightMost impressive was Jake Murphy as Romeo, who managed to catch the passionate emotions of youth with genuine fervor, yet without going too over the top, so the effect was believable. As Friar Lawrence (Julian Lopez-Morillas) questioned him regarding the sudden switch from Rosaline to Juliet, Murphy’s protests of true love seemed absolutely truthful. The only moment that could use some tightening up was his first meeting with Juliet, where he stumbles over the lines, no doubt to seem like a tongue-tied teenager, but the result only sounds like he is forgetting a cue, rather than being a nervous lover. Luisa Frasconi’s Juliet is shrill and flamboyant, but ultimately works as an excited teenage girl. She manages to keep an innocence about her that is lost only as she sees her beloved Romeo lying dead across her knees.

Marin Shakespeare’s production is fun and energetic, with a clean production design that is a cross between Elizabethan, Victorian, and Goth. If you enjoy great poetry and an interactive evening similar to what being at the Globe might have been like, bring a picnic basket and head for Forest Meadows before the play’s run is over.