An eerie foreshadowing greeted the audience at the opening of St. Andrew's Episcopal School's version of "Romeo and Juliet." A cloaked figure told of a "death-mark'd love" and "parents' rage," a story we know all too well. But instead of transporting us back in time, this adaptation at the Potomac school brought the timeless tale of young love and violent hate closer than ever: into our modern-day world.
Set in a contemporary Verona, William Shakespeare's tale of the feuding Montague and Capulet families retains its meaning and message in an effective, thought-provoking interpretation that is well executed by an ensemble and elevated by powerful, moving performances from supporting actresses. The story holds true to its roots: The love-struck Romeo and Juliet unsuccessfully try to overcome the hatred that separates them and are torn apart by prejudice, violence, miscommunication and death.
Overall, the actors' ability to communicate the meaning of Shakespeare's words was impressive. Actors spoke with fluidity and fluency, and showed a thorough understanding of their lines. Juliet's nurse, played by Zeenat Nabi, was especially good at expressing each of her lines and conveying their meaning. The relationships between actors were convincing and natural. Mercutio (Colin O'Shea) and Benvolio (Stephen Michel) were a convincing pair who played off each other extremely well and established a believable friendship.
Credit is undoubtedly due to Hannah Waldhorn (Lady Capulet, Juliet's mother), who gave breath and life to her part, showing the impatient, stuck-up side of her character as well as the disappointed, heartbroken, loving aspect. Waldhorn gave the character additional dimension by using powerful facial expressions and emotional inflections to communicate her despair.
Although the show had some lengthy, unrealistic fight choreography and modern music during set changes that detracted from the previous scene's emotion, the actors' abilities were never lost. O'Shea's energy and comic ability were particularly entertaining, and the steadfast, calming portrayal of Friar Lawrence by William Moodie was very poignant.
The production offered an intriguing take on such a well-known story. Although some scenes lacked emotion and feeling, the numerous good performances and generally swift scene changes moved the show along nicely.
Winston Churchill High School
"Romeo and Juliet" is a classic tale of love, fate and death that has been popular for more than 400 years. Bringing new life to this celebrated play is a difficult task, but students at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac were able to present a refreshing and entertaining version of this timeless tragedy by setting it in the modern day.
Pop culture references to "The Lord of the Rings" and the "Star Wars" series were interspersed with various anachronistic props such as cell phones and handheld PDAs to create a "new Verona" that a modern audience could really connect with.
Despite the update, the integrity of the difficult Shakespearean verse was upheld. Although a few lines were occasionally dropped or rushed, the actors were generally able to speak the Elizabethan English with an ease that made it seem as if they were simply talking among themselves.
The title roles were played by Michael Bridgman and Kelly Harris, who were able to portray the star-crossed lovers convincingly. Whether planning their secret wedding or sharing a passionate kiss, Bridgman and Harris always seemed to perform better in each other's company. Bridgman was able to captivatingly depict both the love-struck teenager and the vengeful murderer Romeo's character embodies.
Other distinguished performances were given by Colin O'Shea (Mercutio, one of Romeo's best friends) and Hannah Waldhorn (Lady Capulet). O'Shea's updated character seemed to be a part of "rave culture," and his glow-stick performance at the Capulets' party was simply show-stopping. Waldhorn was able to transition smoothly from loving to livid and portrayed Lady Capulet's grief effectively during the death sequences.
The technical aspects of the show were also impressive. Alex Rihm's stage crew operated efficiently and never detracted from the show. William White's sound work provided the audience with both clearly delivered lines and a thematic soundtrack that provided poignant interludes during scene changes.
Although some performances outshone others, St. Andrew's "Romeo and Juliet" was a very successful collaborative work. The cast and crew were able to tackle a renowned classic with energizing creativity that started off this year's Cappies season with a bang.
Stonewall Jackson High School,
Prince William County