Missouri Street Theatre’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ treads uneven ground

By From page B3 | July 18, 2014

FAIRFIELD — One thing I try to never do when reviewing a local theatrical production is give away too many of the plot points. I hate when parts of a story I have not seen are revealed before it can be presented in the way intended, so I don’t do that to others.

That said, William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is more than 400 years old and one of the best known of the bard’s works. Still, when the famous prologue about the two households with ancient grudges is delivered that summarizes the whole story, including the tragic end, it’s hard not to think “Spoiler alert!”

While the costumes (Rebecca Valentino with assistant Tracie Davis) were exquisite, the set design (Darcia Tipton) utilitarian and precise, and the other elements including lighting design (Craig Scharfen) and props (Allison Sutherland) were cool, overall the show just felt rather . . . uneven.

“Romeo and Juliet” only ran from last week’s opening to this week’s closing and was sandwiched in between the theater’s last production “Peter Pan” and its upcoming “The Who’s Tommy.” I don’t know if they did not have enough time to rehearse as much as needed to seamlessly fuse the show together and season it with necessary nuance and emotion, but that is kind of how it felt.

I am a huge fan of director Carla Spindt and could see her fingerprints on the show, especially in the performances by Curt Thompson as Mercutio and Stephanie Rivas as the nurse.

The titular star-crossed lovers, played by Levi Duncan and Emma Mercier, both gave workmanlike performances and I thought they especially shone in my favorite scene, when Juliet is on the balcony and Romeo ascends to her.

The aforementioned Thompson stole the show in a good way as the mercurial Mercutio. It was truly a bravura performance where he dug deep and squeezed every last bit of his heart and soul into the character.

David Abad was captivating in his role as Friar Laurence. Richard Steele cut a commanding figure as Prince Escalus and he is one of those local actors who is always solid in whatever role I have seen him play.

Fight coordinator Rick Pallaziol deserves kudos for some of the best onstage swordplay and fight scenes I have seen.

Body language, tone and inflection are all helpful in understanding the language Shakespeare employed with such versatility. Still, the actual words themselves are paramount and if they are hurried, then the meaning, plus the necessary illusion of the onstage action somehow being real, is lost.

Despite some strong performances, the characters’ connection with the audience just didn’t seem to be as strong as it perhaps could have been.

What I mean was dramatized in the film “Shakespeare in Love.” In the movie, there is a production of the play and when Juliet awoke from her chemically induced sleep that simulated death and asked where her Romeo was, a woman watching in the audience was so wrapped up in the story that she tearfully blurted aloud “Dead!”

This is one man’s opinion seen through my own prism. I suggest other theatergoers take a trip to fair Verona and make up their own minds.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].

Missouri Street Theatre

  • “Romeo and Juliet”
  • 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday
  • Fairfield Center for Creative Arts, 1035 Texas St.
  • 940-0700
  • www.downtowntheatre.com
  • 2 stars out of 4
Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

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