Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Tavern

The New American Shakespeare Tavern’s rendition of has been a staple on its repertory for 11 straight seasons, filling the Feb. time slot for the past nine years. This timeless tale of forbidden love is perfect for the month of Feb., especially around Valentine’s Day, and has become as essential to the holiday as roses and chocolate. This year is no exception, with a talented cast and crew that breathe new life into Shakespeare’s classic play.

The theatre itself consists of cabaret-style seating, with tables all the way up to the stage. There were a few tables that were impossibly small and it was pretty crowded. However, that’s to be expected in a sold out show. The theater is a non-profit venue, and relies on donations and word of mouth to keep it running. The food was excellent, with an “authentic British pub” menu full of delicious plates such as Shepherd’s Pie and Cornish Pasties.

Many people probably remember reading in high school, and finding it very boring and incomprehensible. Don’t worry, I did too! However, it is often said that Shakespeare’s works were not meant to be read, but were meant to be seen. You don’t read movie scripts in English class do you? On stage the words take on a whole new meaning when they are paired with actions. Conversations that were supposed to be comical or sad may not appear that way on paper, but when acted out the intended emotion is conveyed.

Almost everyone is familiar with the story of . Capulets versus Montagues, boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy gets banished, plan to reunite goes wrong, and both kill themselves. It’s a classic tale of teenage angst. What saves this play from being totally depressing is the lesson learned by the young couple’s parents, as they realize that they drove their children to this with their pointless feuding. It ends with them promising to end the fighting once and for all.

Artistic director Jeff Watkins has said that he was greatly inspired by Franco Zeffirelli’s take on . This is evident in the way he incorporates music into the play, using real period instruments in the dance scene. The actors even perform a period dance on stage, which is pretty impressive. Another commendable aspect was the way lighting was used to convey morning, night and daytime. The audience knew instantly what time of day it was by how bright or orange the lights were. It was extremely useful.

Lee Osorio plays Romeo and Mary Russell is Juliet. They both did a marvelous job, and were very believable in their roles. Osorio did a good job of conveying the fickle, boyish nature of Romeo; they were both only 14 after all. He goes from being hopelessly in love with a girl named Rosaline, to falling head over heels for Juliet in one night. While this could make Romeo appear annoying, Osorio manages to keep him likeable with his sweet, sincere and vulnerable acting style. His long-winded speeches did get a little tedious sometimes, but they were few and far between.

Russell and Osorio were very good together, and they brought a lot of chemistry and tenderness to their scenes. Juliet is just as naïve, and Russell conveys her youthful and dramatic nature perfectly, going from sad to joyful in the blink of an eye. Her acting style was also very sincere, making Juliet very relatable. When her father is forcing her to marry Paris, you feel her pain. When Juliet is debating whether or not to drink the poison, you feel her confusion. She also shined in the comedic scenes with her nurse, played by Jane Bass.

Also notable in this play were the two characters of Mercutio and Benvolio, played by Daniel Parvis and Nicholas Faircloth. These two were meant by Shakespeare to create comic relief, a fact that is often missed when reading the script. This comedic duo was hilarious, especially Daniel Parvis, who has a real talent for comedy. They did not hesitate to engage the audience with their jokes, egging them on and hamming it up. They had the whole theatre laughing. Everyone felt sad when Parvis’s character Mercutio is killed in the middle of the play.

Seeing a play at the Shakespeare Tavern is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Those same plays you hated so much in high school just may take a new form on stage.