Playing to an enthusiastically supportive audience with only three performances of an abbreviated version Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, director Angela Dickson introduces her ensemble of student, alumni, and community actors to the challenges of producing the Bard.
In a script that edits the five act original to a 90-minute intermissionless production that preserves Shakespeare's essential plot and character elements [and adds a couple of characters and incorporates a few contemporary songs], this show keeps the audience engaged throughout one of Shakespeare's most familiar and most produced plays. -- Whether we are captivated by the tragically romantic story of the "star crossed lovers", or the divide between parents and children, or the extremes of adolescent emotions and their rash behavior, we are assured here that love trumps hate even though there are dire consequences in going against the status quo.
On a borrowed multi-leveled set from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival that revolves to become a number of locations, the action moves quickly and determinedly to its inevitable end.
The biggest success of Ms. Dickson's production is in delivering a clear plot line through her well defined ensemble characters. Brandtley McDonald and Lindsey Justice portray the title characters with all the contradictions and single-mindedness of teenagers in love; there is a fine chemistry between them, and their interpretations of dialogue is the most accomplished in the cast. We immediately are on their side, and remain with them to their unfortunate end.
Geoffrey Morris and George Scrushy play the hot-headed Mercutio and Tybalt; their fight sequences as staged by Assistant Director Tony Davison contain significant danger, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.
Mattie Earls plays Juliet's Nurse with a comic energy mixed with maternal instincts, and Michael DiLaura portrays Friar Lawrence with a combination of well-intentioned help for the young lovers with a certain amount of bumbling that causes much of the trouble.
Though some of the actors haven't yet mastered Shakespeare's verse, and the antics of secondary actors upstage some of the significant action or cover important dialogue, Ms. Dickson has wisely used this abridged version of Romeo and Juliet to introduce her actors to performing in one of the most admired masterpieces of World Drama...something essential to their complete education in theatre.