Molly Lyons as Nurse & Perry Mucci as Romeo
Rain no obstacle to Star-Crossed Lovers
Brockville Recorder & Times
By RONALD ZAJAC
PRESCOTT -- The Fort Town's first taste of Shakespearean tragedy is hardly bitter.The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival's Romeo and Juliet, which opened last night despite the vagaries of nature, is first of all a perfect opposite to A Midsummer Night's Dream in the festival's "Summer of Love" theme.
But it is also a perfect play to ease a local crowd accustomed to comedies, since the start of the five-year-old festival, into the darker side of Shakespeare's work.It is perhaps easy to forget how lightly this tragic tale of star-crossed lovers begins. The dialogue in the early acts is full of quick-firing puns, ribaldry and bawdy humour, lines, such as Sampson's famous "maiden-heads" pun, that one would expect to hear from some of the characters in Midsummer. Where the play turns tragic, where these lovers' story crosses a line beyond which there is no possibility of a happy ending, is in Act 3, Scene 1, when the rivalry between the Capulets and Montagues begins to claim lives. By then, the audience is already drawn in by the strength of the characters and is ready for a descent into darkness that is stunningly choreographed.
Director Craig Walker, who also doubles as this play's conscience in the character of Prince Escalus, had to make some difficult decisions to bring this production down to its practical limit of just over two hours. Gone is some of the dialogue in key moments, and audience members will have to seek reassurance in the original text that the likable Friar Lawrence (compellingly played by Tyler Murree), is forgiven for his well-intentioned but ill-fated scheme. But in return for such textual sacrifices is a tragedy that, by paring away some of the text, provides an emotional crescendo driven by raw emotion.In particular, leads Perry Mucci and Emma Hunter perform the challenging death scene almost like a dark dance, conveying the tragedy through movement rather than words. The resulting shift between the warring families from rivalry to reconciliation, upon the discovery of the young lovers' bodies, is also conveyed wordlessly, with Shakespeare's text serving more to confirm the transformation rather than effect it. This is achieved through the pacing given to the play by Walker's edits, and the effect left the small but determined opening night audience transfixed.
While there are no weak links in this mostly seasoned cast, Mucci in particular stands out because he shows himself worthy of the challenging role of Romeo after the succession of comic characters he has played in the local festival. (Indeed, on the nights he isn't playing Romeo, Mucci will be speaking in a deliberately ridiculous falsetto as Francis Flute in Midsummer.) Romeo is above all driven by an immature emotional extremism that ultimately claims his life, and Mucci, cited by Walker for his "boyish" looks, plays this with the right pitch. Similarly, Hunter captures the fluttering innocence of the 13-year-old Juliet, complete with prattling silliness, in the earlier acts, then grows up very quickly, as she is required to do, in the latter part of the play.
The entire cast, crew and indeed the audience members deserve citations of valour for what has got to be the five-year-old festival's most difficult opening night. As thunder began sounding in the distance, Murree used it to his advantage by incorporating it, at least gesturally, into Friar Lawrence's early dialogue. By the end of the intermission, artistic director Ian Farthing (Mercutio) remained optimistic, telling the audience the brunt of the storm missed Prescott and the play would continue in the Kinsmen Amphitheatre. It wasn't much later, however, when the rain began in earnest and everyone was moved uphill to the nearby tent, to see the play's denouement coincide with an invasion of mosquitoes. It is perhaps a testament to this production's power, however, that during the final scenes the slapping and shooing seemed to diminish for a moment. The mosquitoes were the result of the delay caused by the move to the tent. Festival regulars will know that by now, these Shakespeareans have learned how to time their productions to end right before the after-dark infestation begins. That is, when the weather co-operates just a little.
Despite what the weather has in store for the next few weeks, Romeo and Juliet is a production that deserves a much bigger crowd.
Published in Section A, page 4 in the Thursday, July 19, 2007 edition of the Brockville Recorder & Times.Posted 4:31:49 PM Thursday, July 19, 2007.
Molly Lyons as Nurse & Emma Hunter as