Two young lovers lay on the ground dead, one by a knife wound and the other by poison. These two tragic suicides mar what is known as "the greatest love story of all time." Riddled with sorrow, anger, and love, Phoenixville's production of Romeo and Juliet depicted the many intricate dimensions of this timeless tale.
Often hailed as Shakespeare's greatest work, Romeo and Juliet is still prevalent throughout modern culture. With constant new twists on the tale, from the animated Gnomio and Juliet to the beloved musical West Side Story, nearly everyone can recall the famous lines during the balcony scene or the unfortunate fate of the lovers. However, many do not realize that the story contains as much comedy as it does tragedy, a refreshing aspect that Phoenixville smartly accented to give the show new life and vitality.
In addition to the challenging dialogue and emotion of the show, Phoenixville also had to replace one of their key actresses just two weeks before their opening night. The original actress portraying the Juliet's nurse, Sadie Behrman, was seriously injured in a car accident. Ashley Spina had only one week to run her part through rehearsals. Though she needed the aid of a script onstage, she delivered her lines so naturally one forgot she had it. Spina's tremendous flourishing action— such as her thwacking of Romeo with her fan to emphasize her words —and high, crisp voice lit up every scene she was in. In an immensely inspirational performance, Spina gave the entire production great comedy and life.
Andrew Ball dashingly captured the hopelessly-in-love Romeo, with a tender voice and childish vulnerability as well as a chivalrous nature. His ability to ferociously fence his opponents yet also retreat sheepishly from Juliet's view when spying on her balcony. Abby Gould as the gentle Juliet graced her role with sweetness. She emphasized her dialogue with a natural cadence that allowed her words to be appreciated and understood. Together, the two convincingly lead the play as the youthful star-crossed lovers.
Jack Beran as the lovable Mercutio electrified the stage in bursts of goofiness, galloping around the Romeo, piggyback riding into the masquerade, and leaping into his cohort's arms with unprecedented fluidity and mastery of motion. David D'Ardenne as the Count Paris gave a show-stealing performance with wonderful melodrama, creepily stroking Juliet's hair and dying with an unforgettable, "Oh, I'm slain!" that sent the audience into hysterics.
A hefty set with an abundance of scene changes challenged the stage crew, but did their job admirably. Even when some scene changes were slow, the live music of Anne Moses, Emily Gallina, and MaryAnn Odete entertained with the sweet sounds of the drum, the strings, and the flute. The many swords of the two houses enhanced the frequent fights with satisfying "clinks" that added to the realistic elements of the show.
Presenting a fresh and engaging production of Romeo and Juliet is no small feat, but Phoenixville deftly tackled many hurdles and gave a truly commendable performance.