Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Chris Rivera
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
In all forms of art, one could argue, there are traps into which one must constantly and consciously avoid falling. There are timeworn clichés, and the unfortunate tendency to oversell and under deliver. As an avid theatre-goer, the phrase “indie production of Romeo &Juliet” might fill you with joy, knowing another generation of theatre-makers is exploring the classics, and discovering the passion and foolishness of love in its pure, youthful form. That same phrase might fill you with terror, in fear of yet another Shakespeare production that is stale, stuffy, and dispassionate, or simply misdirected.
What Dreams May Co. is a young, indie theatre production company, focused on the classics—specifically Shakespeare, thus far. Promising minimalist staging in an effort to “leave the focus on the language and the characters, challenging the actors in the company to reach new levels,” but delivering little more than the minimalism, this production appears to be the clunky product of actors who wanted to play certain rôles, reasonable casting be damned. Romeo, Juliet, and Mercutio are played by the company’s three producers, to varying degrees of success, in a cast that seems to have been cobbled together from three different productions.
Christina Sheehan’s Juliet is whiney, awkward, and brash, but with none of the charm, hopefulness, or youthful passion that rounds out the character and makes the tragic love story plausible. Her strongest moment is the monologue that opens the balcony scene, and it stood out from the rest of her performance as though they were the words and actions of two completely different characters. Perhaps Ms. Sheehan has used that monologue for one too many auditions.
The fire that ignites between Romeo and Juliet must be a dangerous blaze from the moment of the first spark at the Capulet’s party, and yet their meeting feels cold and tired. Whether this is the product of an irritating Juliet, a miscast Romeo (Jonathan Emerson), or the sloppy staging, it makes the rest of the production frustrating, knowing that several of these characters will die, over a passion with all the heat of a refrigerated hot dog.
Nicole Schalmo (Mercutio), Clare Solly (Nurse), and Jenny Hoofnagle (Lady Capulet) deserve mention as the actors that understand their own words, understand their rôles in the story, and are able to translate those to the audience. Most of the cast swallow entire lines, only knowing if they know what they’re trying to say.
One has the impression that Chris Rivera is the director in name only. Were it otherwise, one might assume that the amateurish blocking choices and rough transitions would have been smoothed out in either the earliest or the latest rehearsals, if not both. Add to that the lacklustre fight choreography (Ms. Schalmo), and we are left with few redeeming qualities. This company has the potential to live up to their mission statement, but they have a lot of work to do to get there.
It should be noted that the original artwork used to create the minimalist scenery will be auctioned off, and 75% of proceeds will benefit Trinity Place, a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth. Remember, you don’t have to see the show to bid on the art, and you don’t have to bid on the art if you’d rather just make a donation directly to the charity.
Runs until 20th December