by Rebecca Nimerfroh
More than 400 years since it was first performed, William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet remains one of the most popular love stories in Western history, having taken on many forms including opera, ballet, and more recently, a major motion picture starring heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. Lines like Juliet’s wistful, “Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” are arguably as ingrained in our minds as our ABC’s. However many reasons there are behind this story’s timeless ability to resonate with us over the ages, one thing is for certain; witnessing it again, from wherever you stand in your current life, is as sweet and comforting as a visit from an old friend. Lucky for us on Nantucket, the opportunity is now upon us at The White Heron Theatre, with a production of this classic tale running now through the last performance this Sunday, September 3.
This production, however, is special, in that it comes to us re-imagined, with the addition of song and dance. Louis Butelli, commissioned by Lincoln Center Education, directs this masterpiece, with original music provided by Matthew Marsh to accompany the famous iambic pentameter, and ballet-like movement choreographed by Evelyn Chen. In fact, it’s these “additions to the menu,” executed by a limited (yet stunning) cast of five performers that encourage you to re-examine a list of characters we all assumed we knew through and through, joining them on this wild ride made up of war and love, and it’s a journey well worth taking.
This version of Romeo & Juliet is certainly condensed to only the “sweet spots” of the plotline, with most cast members charged with playing multiple characters. Comedic relief is provided by the stellar Chris French, who, with the quick twist of a flannel around his waist, transforms himself from Tybalt to Juliet’s sly Nurse. The same goes for actor Danny Bernstein who plays the piano one minute, then becomes Lady Capulet the next. Lindsay Alexandra Carter is captivating as the young and in-love Juliet, and Alec Funiciello truly conveys the strife of a young, fourteen year old Romeo. Paul Corning performs the animated Mercutio, Friar, and Lord Capulet.
It is easy to classify Romeo & Juliet as just another love story. Not to oversimplify, but who among us cannot relate to a lovesick teenager with parents who just don’t understand? But through song, dance, and multi-dimensional characters, this creative production brings to light a deeper implication, one of silenced voices under the weight of legacy, duty and discord. Perhaps these teens did not only die for love, but for the common human desire in us all to simply be heard? So, just like that visit with an old friend, you are sure to leave your seat with a pang in your heart, and a newfound gem of self-awareness.
To purchase tickets, visit whiteherontheatre.org, and don’t wait, there are only a two performances left of this great show!