Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The Players fourth show of their 108th season is “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. It is considered to be one of the greatest works of romantic literature. Written in 1591, it is a story of deep passions which come out as lover or violence, the tragic tale soars with the poetry of heartbreak and doomed but perfect love. It can also been seen as a contemporary play with gang violence, emotionally absent parents, generation gap frustrations, reckless youth, unbridled passion and torrid romantic love. Director Roger Lemelin casts his show splendidly and blends the comic and dramatic moments together marvelously, too.
Roger includes the needed exposition in Act 1 for first time audiences which contains the party scene and some sexual innuendo segments that are very comical. But his prowess as a director is seen in the dramatic moments that close out Act 1 with the death of Mercutio and Tybalt and the dynamic second act that will impress even the seasoned Shakespearean theatre goers. Romeo and Juliet are excellently played by Austin Venditelli and Kristen Wedel McGuirk. They make the transition from carefree youngsters into dramatic adults beautifully. His love scenes with her are tender and romantic while his scenes with the Friar crackle with electricity as her scenes do with her parents, the Nurse and the Friar. He commands the stage in Act 1 with his enormous amount of dialogue. When the Nurse finds her dead in her bed, Marcia and Kristen make it into a heartbreaking scene leaving the audience in tears. I last reviewed Austin as Cliff in “Cabaret” for Community Players.
Two of the most outstanding performers in this show are Walter Cotter as Friar Laurence and Marcia Layden as the Nurse. Their vocal prowess, line delivery and facial expressions are astonishing. His emotion packed lines are wonderful to listen to as he stops Romeo from killing himself and concocts the plan to make Juliet appear to be dead with a potion he gives her. She handles both the comic and dramatic moments excellently. Marcia has many comic moments with Juliet while chasing her around the stage and a very comical one with Mercutio and Romeo while using her fan to cool herself off. Marcia’s most poignant moment occurs when she finds Juliet dead in her bed. Her reaction to it will bring tears to your eyes. Other strong performers include Juliet’s parents, Andrew Stigler as her overbearing, wealthy father and Becky Minard as her mother. They do a superb job in the argument scene with their daughter and their emotional breakdown at the supposed and actual death of Juliet.
Other standout performers are Mike Pugiese as Mercutio, Romeo’s friend and confidante and Nicholas Menna as Tybalt, the hot headed Capulet who challenges Romeo to a duel after he crashes the party. Michael has a very funny drunken scene after the party while taunting Romeo and a terrific dramatic death scene when he declares a plague on both their houses. Mercutio and Tybalt have a marvelous fight scene that is frightening to behold. Alvaro Beltran also delivers the goods as Benvolio with his huge amount of dialogue. So for a trip back to the days of yore, be sure to catch “Romeo and Juliet” at The Players. They do a splendid job with this Shakespearean tale. To become a member of this theatre club, be sure to call Bill Applegate.
ROMEO AND JULIET (10 to 19 March)
The Players, Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit St, Providence, RI
1(401)273-0590 or www.playersri.org