BID FAREWELL TO YOUNG LOVERS AT HARTFORD STAGE

Bonnie Goldberg

Starlight and teardrops mark the brief meteor of love that is Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A tragedy for the ages, it rarely fails to move the heart strings as the young lovers fall into the dramatic swirl of instantaneous deep affection at the Capulet’s masked ball, only to be forced to seal their fate five days later in death.

Like an adult firefly that glows with luminescence for too swift a time and then, captured in a glass jar, is snuffed out forever, Romeo and Juliet are trapped by the feuding enmity of their two families, the Capulets and the Montagues. The scene is Verona, Italy in post-war modern times as envisioned by director Darko Tresnjak at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, March 20.

Chris Ghaffari’s Romeo and Kaliswa Brewster’s Juliet are perfectly paired as eager lovers whose eyes meet, as she bewitches him in a gypsy dance at the ball. The lure of forbidden fruit is quickly evident, adding to the impetuous need to preserve their secret in marriage, before their parents can intercede to stop them.

For Juliet’s part, her father (Timothy D. Stickney) and mother (Celeste Ciulla) have set their sights on the eligible nobleman Paris (Julien Seredowych) to be her bridegroom.┬áRomeo previously enamored by the fair Rosaline, soon realizes it is only to Juliet that he can pledge his heart.

The tension in the air intensifies when Romeo’s friend Mercutio (Wyatt Fenner) finds himself pitted in battle against Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Jonathan Louis Dent). When Tybalt is slain, Romeo avenges his death by slaying Mercutio and suddenly Romeo finds himself banished from the city.

With the help and counsel of the good Friar Laurence (Charles Janasz), a plan is formed to save their recent union. Juliet’s nurse (Kandis Chappell) tries to protect her young charge but sleeping potions, vials of poison, misdirected missives and threats of revenge plague any chance of happiness.

Shakespeare’s verse is beautifully pleasing to the ear, Ilona Somogyi’s costumes are stylish, while Darko Tresnjak’s set is problematic, containing a wall of a flower decked mausoleum that opens to reveal a balcony and a large gravel-filled pit that is distracting as it crunches with the action. While all’s well does not end well, this production is distinguished for its elegance of words and deeds. Kudos to the whole cast.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Enter the star-crossed orb of two lovers whose affection, like a firefly burned too brightly, was quickly extinguished when deprived of air to breath. “Parting is such sweet sorrow."

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