Romeo and Juliet at Festival Stratford

By Tom Nissley

In a beautiful setting on the grounds of the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, and on a magnificent set, designed and constructed under the supervision of Lynne Porter, Connecticut Free Shakespeare presented a great production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which will be repeated through the weekend until August 5.

 

A good production of “R and J” needs a solid cast, and this one, directed and staged by Ellen Lieberman, succeeds nicely. Erin Scanlon plays the fourteen year old Juliet beautifully and believably, and Mark Friedlander the moody and then impassioned Romeo. They each project youth and excitement and the thrill of falling in love at first sight. Eric Nyquist’s Mercutio is beautifully fast moving and dynamic. Stephen Humes did a great job as Tybalt.

 

It takes a village to bring this story home, so I’m always interested in the Nurse and Friar Lawrence, because they are so important in the script. Liliane Klein was a terrific Nurse, milking the role to the breaking point, and Jamil Mangan played the good friar very well. The Capulets and Montagues were well cast; Tom Evans played the role of Paris, and also the apothecary in Mantua who sells Romeo the fatal drug.

 

The choreography and fight scenes were full of energy, and that extended to the comedic moments when the friends taunt Romeo and the Nurse. Eric Nyquist appears to have worked with a lot of this excitement. He’s also the key player who welcomes the audience during the intermission, getting them to sing and dance and donate to the cost of keeping CT Free Shakespeare alive and well, and then leads the interlude music which opens the second half of the play.

 

The lighting (Sebastian Paczynski) was excellent, extending the set into the lawn, and highlighting the surrounding trees. The sound (Fred Santore) was well managed. The costumes (Solveig Pflueger and Chris Mallardi) were excellent. And it was wonderful to be on the grounds of the grand old theatre which brought such powerful drama to Stratford years ago, giving hope that the venue may one day rise again.

 

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre.

 

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