Everyone knows the story: boy meets girl, boy kills girl's cousin, boy gets banished, girl fakes own death, boy commits suicide, girl follows suit in tragic, cult-like poisoning.
The Deptford Players did something commendable, in that their production of Romeo and Juliet was set, of all places, in Verona. Not only that, but they had the kooky idea of setting it in the mid-15th century. In addition to setting the play in the exactly correct time and place, they also presented Shakespeare's text uncut. While not every single word of the script is necessary, the true depth of its magnificence is apparent only when seen in its entirety (even though Shakespeare TOTALLY ripped off West Side Story).
The stage combat (choreographed by Jeff Berry) was quite elaborate, given the confines of an Off-Off-Broadway stage. Berry, however, did favors for the Capulets, having the Montagues cheat in fencing by using rapier and dagger when fighting an opponent armed only with rapier. Not gentlemanly at all!
The costumes (Lorree True and Lynn McCann), as with the set, were period accurate, with not a zipper to be seen. True used a black-and-white color scheme that was a bit on the obvious side, with Capulets and Montagues wearing a mixture of black-and-white and persons of neither family (like the Prince or the Friar) dressed in multi-chromatics. Obvious, but still effective.
The set (designed by director Thomas McCann) was elaborate and got good marks for effort, but the 15th-century archways, balconies, and courtyards still looked like two-dimensional cardboard and Styrofoam. The lighting (Michelle Zielinksi) was up to the challenge of covering the myriad entrances over the play's three-hour length. Sound involved period music, both during for masked-ball scene as well in incidental music
Of course an epic, rich in language will live or die based on the performances. The Deptford players offered a mostly good yet mixed bag with its 15-member cast. Romeo (Christopher Wilkes) was well-cast as was Juliet (Stephanie Stone), but some of the supporting role were lackluster and one character sounded more as if he came from Brighton Beach than Verona. In their defense, some members of the cast played up to six different roles.
Director McCann kept the play fast-paced, despite its three-hour length, though some of Shakespeare's more long-winded speeches can take their toll on audience attention span. Despite the occasional wordy monolog, the overall effect was that of a tight show, which threw in "guys with swords" anytime the story started to get too mushy.
As stated before, the mere fact that this was NOT set in 1930s Chicago with Al Capone as Capulet and Elliot Ness as Montague earned the Deptford Players praise.
(Also featuring Debra Henri, Jeff Topf, Jay Longan, Brennan Roberts, Brian Caplan, Adam Devine, Steven Ungar, Carlotta Sherwood, Marie Bridget Dundon, Dudley Stone, Christopher Wilkes, Jason Alan Griffin, and Eric Hanson.)
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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby