Sunday, December 9, 2007

Romeo and Juliet in Staunton

On Friday, I saw Romeo and Juliet at the Blackfriars playhouse in Staunton. They pushed the comedy really hard in the beginning of the play so that when the tragic elements start coming forward, they are made that much more tragic in comparison to what has been going on on stage.

I didn't like the friar being humorous so loudly because I think a lot of what he says and does is pretty funny already and should be kind of dead pan type of stuff. The language does enough for the friar that the actor doesn't really need to try so hard.

They "Do it with the lights on" at the American Shakespeare Center. They leave the house lights on so something strange happens. The actors see the audience and the audience sees each other. I wish they didn't explain the situation before the play because it is really surprising what happens. The audience feels like they are part of the show. Indeed, several theatergoers end up on stage sitting on the sides, sometimes becoming very active in the course of the play.

It's kind of a mixed bag, but I think what lacks in the type of experience the Blackfriars provides is made up for by the fact that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves immensely. The actors and audience are in it together to have a good time. And they do.

The actors also play songs at intermission. I love that. It's like a poetry reading that way, and I like poetry readings, and I think that the oral tradition of poetry and theater is never respected without music. And they are good musicians! And because of the way the theater works, the audience claps the beat unabashedly.

They also laugh loudly and gasp audibly and do all of the things that theatergoers do in the movies but not in real life.

And this was a good Romeo and Juliet. Everyone was good in it. I think, though, that the most memorable effort was provided by Benvolio played by Christopher Salazar. I think that Benvolio is a thankless role: hard to play and totally forgettable. Everyone ends up talking about Mercutio when it comes to Romeo's pals, and Benvolio just slips out of the memory as soon as you leave the theater. But the Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio trio really worked out on the Blackfriars stage.

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