Romeo and Juliet

Rated 3.0

The new Sierra Foothills Shakespeare Festival has marshaled many resources for its first production, including a two-story set, period costumes for 30-odd actors and swordplay that’s fast, realistic and scary.

But while this show exceeds expectations in some categories, in others, it’s basically OK.

Assets include professional actor-director Jason Bortz. He understands that beneath the famous love poetry and tragic finale, this play’s a bawdy comedy for the first hour.

Bortz, as an actor, embodies Mercutio’s muscular, boastful attitude, dominating every conversation. As director, he favors action and dramatic flair—in the suitably chaotic party at the Capulet home (where Romeo spots Juliet) and in this production’s best scene, where Verona’s young men draw blades on a dare, and two die, suddenly, as others gasp. Versatile David Campfield (Tybalt) and Eric Egan (Romeo, going berserk) also shine here.

The show’s second half, alas, fades in comparison with the first. Alyce Hartman as Juliet is moving in her death scene, but most of this production’s better moments come before intermission.

Yet, overall, this maiden effort is worth checking out. The right sensibilities are present, if not always sustained, and the Folsom area is underserved. This is a start-up we’d like to see take root.