In the interests of charity, if not dramatic criticism, it is probably wisest to draw a discreet veil over the Studio Theatre's production of "Romeo and Juliet."
Most of us, at one time or another in our theater-going lives, have been subjected to the spectacle of green actors throwing themselves headlong into Shakespeare and trying, so hard that it hurts, to feel the beauty of the verse and the majesty of the sentiments. It is not an edifying experience and there is usually nothing to do but sit patiently and check off the scenes until a merciful curtain falls. Usually, none of the performances improves. In fact, the youthful actors have pretty much displayed their full range in the first half hour, and from then on their mannerisms register with mounting irritation on the consciousness -- rather like a steady drip from a leaky faucet.
Such is the case of the Studio's "Romeo," which is no better or no worse than your average high school "Romeo." It is directed by Joy Zinoman, who also teaches the art of acting, and many of the cast members are present or former students of hers. Conceivably, Zinoman can take pleasure in the progress, if progress there be, that they have made in the classroom. The general theater patron cannot lay claim to that satisfaction.
With more seasoning, Paul Morella (Romeo) and Tucker Ewing (Juliet) may one day make passable Shakespearean performers. Others in the cast -- Nancy Paris (the Nurse) and Richard Hart (Mercutio) -- should not be imposed upon a paying audience. But if the evening has one over-riding problem among a raft of lesser problems, it's that no one is speaking his lines directly and simply. The voices quiver and shake, glide up and plummet down, roll, thunder and ooze, often in perfect defiance of Shakespeare's words. The florid approach is startlingly reminiscent of old-time elocution, which prized the "color" of an actor's delivery, especially if that color was purple.
All that the Studio performers are learning by going through such contortions, I fear, are some very bad habits.
ROMEO AND JULIET. By William Shakespeare. Directed by Joy Zinoman. Set, Russell Metheny; lighting, Greg Basdavanos; costumes, Jean L. Parsons and Jane Schloss Phelan; music, Robert Martin. With Timothy Rice, Jan Behmen, Paul Morella, Tucker Ewing, Richard Hart, Paul McCarren, Nancy Paris. At the Studio Theatre through Jan. 10.