Hart House Theatre breathes new life into Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. Bold directorial choices and stand-out performances give this show an exciting energy. Setting this beloved script in modern Italy to the rhythm of Italian pop music gives this show uncommon accessibility and a youthful energy.
Set in Verona, Italy the story of Romeo and Juliet follows two feuding families, “both alike in dignity” as their discord degenerates into bloody quarrels. Only the infatuation of two young, “star-crossed” lovers can help mend the warring ways of these two families. Secret marriages, apothecary’s potions, elaborate fight scenes and forbidden romance, this story engages the audience from the prologue.
Such an involved and classic script presents a formidable challenge for a company of players. Director Jeremy Hutton helps this company meet these challenges and achieve its ambitious goals with style and apparent ease. Aiming, “to tell this story as if it had never been told before and to immerse everyone so fully into the unfolding action that they forgot they ever knew what was coming next” is no small undertaking. Strong directorial influence holds the rudder of this play fast and guides this show to great success.
Strong performances from a number of key characters help to support and execute Hutton’s vision. Paolo Santalucia creates a fabulously melancholy, introverted Romeo; cerebral and shy, Santalucia’s Romeo finds the perfect harmony of love-sick eagerness and unbridled emotion. Scott Moore as Friar Lawrence demonstrates uncommon mastery of the Shakespearean tongue. He’s a privilege to listen to; the words, however familiar, from him, sound like new poetry. Joshua Browne as Mercutio is absolutely incredible; he’s a true show stealer. His energy, his command of the language and his ability to draw out the marked sexual innuendo of this character with humour make his an amazing performance. Browne convinces the audience not simply that he’s playing Mercutio, but rather, that he is Mercutio. This show is worth seeing for many reasons, but Browne’s performance is reason enough.
Despite such strong direction and outstanding performances, certain areas of this play leave the audience wanting. Lesley Robertson is miscast as the Nurse; her energy is excellent and her commitment clear but she’s simply too young for the part and her interactions with Juliet seem somewhat strange as a result. Darwin Lyons is clearly a very smart Juliet; her understanding of the text is clear and her chemistry with Romeo is exciting to watch but her performance comes off as slightly exaggerated.
That said, Lyons creates some stunning moments; perhaps most notably, the scene where she and Romeo meet. Fervent and intense, romantic and emotional, Santalucia and Lyons’ execute this classic scene beautifully, creating an exciting sense of expectation. Hutton’s use of an ensemble piece with a beautiful choral quality in this scene is brilliant. Visually stunning, unexpected and electrifying, this group piece offers a truly creative interpretation of a famous scene.
Hart House earns its accolades for this energetic and dynamic show with creative thought, commitment to the language and a love of the script. These elements create a strong and vibrant pulse for this production.
Romeo & Juliet runs from November 7th to 24th 2012
Run time: One Act; approximately 3 hours (two intermissions).
Tickets available online at: http://www.uofttix.ca/view.php?id=886
Hart House Theatre
7 Hart House Circle
Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3H3
Tickets are $25 for Adults; $15 for Students & Seniors
Written by Jenn Hood
Jenn Hood loves theatre. She has acted in shows including Ghosts (Henrick Ibsen), Coriolanus (William Shakespeare), Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare), All in the Timing (David Ives) and Death (Woody Allen). As a long-time theatre reviewer for Spotlight, Jenn is thrilled to be a part of the dynamic Toronto theatre scene. Recently she has begun writing joint reviews with her father, Richard Hood, which often require (in the best way) a large glass of wine.