by ERIN DWYER
William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” opened in the Klein Theatre last weekend, providing a pleasurable and impressive performance of the play for the campus and community. Playing through April 18, students and the community should seize the opportunity to enjoy the outstanding talents of UMW students on the stage. The production is sure to leave viewers entranced by the romantic tragedy that has engrained itself into the literary and theatrical canon.
Costume designer Kevin McCluskey, shop supervisor Marilyn Wojdak and assistants Amanda Gold, Tara Lescault and Jennifer Sustar did an impressive job with costume choice and design. Depicting the rival houses in different colors (green and blue tones for the Montagues and red pastels for the Capulets) helped the audience remember the familial ties of the minor roles.
Beyond helping to define the characters, everything about the presentation of costume, hair and accessories was beautiful, eye-catching and still true to the period. Especially impressive were the headdress pieces and gowns of the leading female characters Juliet, Lady Capulet and Lady Montague. Besides the performances, the wardrobe of the play is one of its major selling points.
Not that the performances were less noteworthy. The actors were able to skillfully use Shakespearean speech and soliloquies while never leaving the audience confused by the intricate language of the play. Even though several of Shakespeare’s tongue-in-cheek phrases and word plays are often missed, there were plenty of verbal and movement cues to suggest the meanings behind the complicated dialogues.
The audience on opening night particularly enjoyed the thrusting motions employed to explicate sexual innuendos, as well as the Nurse’s (played by Katie B. O’Connor) accentuated reminiscence of Juliet’s childhood. In general, the play’s humor was effectively enacted through the characters, in spite of the natural impediments of performing a 14th century play for a 21st century audience.
Memorable performances include O’Connor’s hilarious Nurse, as well as Paul Morris’ Mercutio, who was simultaneously able to embody the characters’ eccentric, overdramatizing neuroticism and his tragic, heartfelt demise. Leads Faqir Qarghah and Bess Ten Eyck also carried the show well, showing great character development and transition from naïve, swept-away lovers to touching, grave protagonists.
Supporting cast members shined throughout the play as well, especially during the opening scene depicting a servants’ argument turning into a rowdy street brawl. “Romeo and Juliet” is an accomplishment for the Theatre department ending the 2009-2010 season with a hit.