>ASC: Romeo and Juliet

>Time’s getting away from me and I realized a couple of days ago that I had few opportunities to see the fourth show in the American Shakespeare Center repertoire this season. I’ve seen Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Winter’s Tale and Antony and Cleopatra, but just hadn’t managed to get to Romeo and Juliet. So, today was the day.

And it was a wonderful performance, with a nearly full house (a big group of VMI students, I’m guessing, judging by the uniforms). Susan Heyward was a terrific Juliet, and makes a credible young teen. I love to watch her face and that’s one of the great things about this theater — you really can see the actors’ facial expression. Her Juliet is part childish, part lusty, part neurotic, part rebellious, and she almost doesn’t even need to speak the lines. Gregory Jon Phelps was probably the obvious choice for Romeo on appearance alone, but he’s also a fine actor. His Romeo is funny and defiant, but also, of course, love-struck. Everyone here turns it great performances, though: Jan Knightley is fearsome as the Prince of Verona and hilarious as the illiterate Peter; Elisabeth Rodgers makes an amazing Lady Capulet; Benjamin Curns is fantastic as Mercutio, Romeo’s buddy; John Paul Scheidler makes a perfectly vile Tybalt. John Harrell, David Loar, Allison Glenzer, Rene Thornton, Jr., Tyler Moss and Christopher Salazar are also flawless in their many roles.

Since the story doesn’t need repeating, let me just make a few observations: Whenever I see a show here I’m struck with ideas for stories — lines I must borrow, titles, relationships; today was no different. The company has been seating people in the “Lord’s Room” — stools up in “Juliet’s Balcony” in addition to the stools on the stage. Today 6 of the VMI students were up there but Susan Heyward needed to move a couple of them as she prepared for the famous balcony scene. During that scene, while Romeo was speaking, an audience member sneezed very close to where Gregory Jon Phelps was standing on stage, so Phelps turned to him and said “bless you.”

So that’s it for this season for me. I’ll probably see A Christmas Carol, though. John Harrell is playing Scrooge this year and it will be fun to see his interpretation of the part. They’re also doing David Seadaris’s The Santaland Diaries, with Chris Seiler. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is the 2008 Actors’ Renaissance season that begins January 10: Macbeth, Volpone, Cymbeline, The Jew of Malta and The Witch. That’s going to be fantastic.

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