Monday, September 20, 2010

warm up your tear ducts: romeo & juliet are in town

but soft, what play through yonder window breaks? it's romeo & juliet, and yehaw, neptune's new season kicked off friday night.

you can read my review at halifax magazine or below.

Review by Halifax Magazine contributor Jon Tattrie.
It starts with two corpses carried out on stage, but I’ll give you three reasons why you should see Neptune Theatre’s season debut, Romeo and Juliet. And I’ll save the best for last.

1. It’s an excuse to rent Shakespeare in Love. The plays of William Shakespeare suffer terribly from the fact that they are all 400 years old. The writer himself would have been aghast to watch people’s faces contort as they struggled to understand what people are saying. The Neptune performance has many fine actors who do an admirable job of explaining the more obscure language, but you still may find yourself lost in a London fog. So rent Shakespeare in Love. It’s a brilliant exposition of how a writer’s personal problems become fodder for his work and in this case, it’s an imagined account of how Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. You will come to the theatre primed for tears.

2. It will help you understand West Side Story. George Pothitos, Neptune’s artistic director, has done some very clever and lovely things with his second season at the helm. As you watch Juliet (Sarah English) turn from giggling girl in love to woman forced to make a terrible decision because of the violent feud, you may wonder what Verona’s archaic rivalry would look like in modern times. You can find out starting in April, when West Side Story takes to Neptune’s stage, bringing the story of starstruck lovers to 1950s gangland New York.

3. Romeo and Juliet is Halifabulous. Under the previous regime at Neptune Theatre, acting insiders long complained to me that the company wouldn’t cast a Haligonian even if the play was called Halifax: the Musical. Pothitos has changed that culture of outsiders over insiders and Romeo and Juliet’s two hours traffic is full of Halifactors. Brightest among these stars is Sarah English, who is an enchanting embodiment of sweet young Juliet. Her goofy innocence animates the opening of the play as she falls madly in love with Derek Moran’s somewhat shouty, impulsive, Romeo. The love affair is often overwhelmed by the impending tragedy, but English makes you briefly forget theatre’s most famous ending as she calls Romeo back to her balcony for one more kiss. Her light Juliet staggers under the crushing weight of the sexist, bull-headed world she lives in, making sense of her drastic decisions.

Bonus reason: For years, Shakespeare in Halifax has meant actor Jeremy Webb, who won a Merritt Award for his portrayal of Iago in Shakespeare by the Sea’s 2009 production of Othello and who has charmed thousands with his play about the plays, Shakespeare on Trial. He brings his wit and skill for storytelling to Neptune as Friar Lawrence, the plotting priest whose plans fatally fall apart. It’s a treat to see Webb expertly use the tools of a full production.

Romeo and Juliet is at Neptune Theatre until October 17.
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