To be, or maybe, not to be
Romeo and Juliet
The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival‘s latest production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet offers audiences a straightforward interpretation of the classic tale. It combines young romance, fight scenes, intrigue and tragedy for an enjoyable evening.
Director Sharon Winegar set this production of Romeo and Juliet during the season of Carnival in an 18th-century Italian city, where masqueraders roam the streets in colorful costumes. The choice of setting works well, providing a background of gaiety that contrasts sharply with the divisiveness of the two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues.
Amid this festive setting emerges Romeo (Brandon Petty), who is in love with Rosaline, an unseen fair maiden who prefers chastity over love. As his cousin Benvolio (Benjamin Stowe) tries to cheer him up, they are approached by an illiterate servant of the Capulets, who, not knowing that they are Montagues, asks for their help in reading a message he must deliver. From the message, Romeo and Benvolio discover that the Capulets are giving a party that night and, with the urging of their irreverent friend Mercutio (Scott Coopwood), they decide to crash it.
At the party, the two star-crossed lovers meet for the first time. From there, the events move rapidly through time, with the whole story taking place over the course of a few short days.
Outlined against the gray stone walls of the city, the women wear brightly colored dresses with tightly curled hair, and the men sport long coats, breeches and wigs. The music of flutes, strings and drums underscores the production, adding excitement to the fight scenes while imparting a grandiose feeling to the events overall.
Nevertheless, there are a few awkward moments. At the Capulets’ party, for example, Romeo and Juliet never remove their masks before falling in love, and it is hard to imagine that they would be so receptive to such feelings without first seeing each other’s face. In this production, Juliet’s balcony is only two feet off the ground, allowing both Romeo and Juliet to climb over it with little effort. During a few scenes, a group of ominous, black-clad figures appear onstage, silently imparting an air of ill-tidings. Their presence doesn’t add much to the meaning of the show, and the choice seems a bit heavy-handed.
In a pink gown and with blond curls, Lenne Klingaman looks angelic as Juliet. Klingaman is spry and spunky, bouncing around the stage with delight and playing several moments to excellent comic effect. She seems much like a modern girl, with her excited energy, occasional bossiness and impressive self-awareness.
The show has some excellent comic moments, due especially to Rachel Permann in the role of the jovial, chatty Nurse, and Albert Dayan as Peter, the Capulets’ slow, easily confused servant.
With the moon and stars overhead and the calming background murmur of the waves on Sand Harbor beach, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival offers a great way to see this classic romance.