Romeo and Juliet

Rated 4.0

Director Sharon Winegar’s take on Romeo and Juliet is, by comparison, rather traditional—yet quite effective. Winegar adds five masked, black-clad figures in three-cornered hats (rather like the figure of doom from Amadeus) who hover about the stage in several fateful scenes. Michael Rasbury’s original score keeps returning to brooding drumbeats. Even the play’s first half—often played as pure comedy featuring Juliet’s motor-mouthed nurse (portly Rachel Permann) and bragging swordsman Mercutio (Coopwood again)—is darker than usual.

Director Winegar focuses on a lean, mean presentation of Romeo and Juliet’s rapid transition from cuddly new young lovers to corpses in the crypt. Impulsive teenage decisions, unlucky coincidences and a family feud destroy not only Romeo and Juliet, but several others who are close to them. Talk about collateral damage.

This production also reminds us how very little time Romeo and Juliet actually spend together, and how much of this play deals with swordplay in the streets, family discord and other relationships. Romeo spends a lot of time talking trash with the guys, Juliet is often absorbed with efforts to resist the marriage match with County Paris that her father has arranged. When things go wrong, both Romeo and Juliet leap to desperate solutions—every parent’s nightmare. (The words “cool down” don’t seem to exist, even though Friar Laurence—played very well by Michael Stevenson—tries repeatedly to say them.)

As Juliet, Lenne Klingaman handles both love and desperation convincingly. There are also excellent supporting performances by Barzin Akhavan (flashing a piercing gaze as hotheaded Tybalt), and Albert Dayan (brilliant in a small role as the befuddled servant Peter, also good as Prince Escalus). The show’s fight scenes are better than usual—perhaps the outdoor setting and starlight make them more credible. And the lakeside setting at Sand Harbor is smashingly beautiful, as always.