Review: Romeo and Juliet Kills at the Allman Theatre

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Elise Bigley

Katie Willard (Juliet) and Roderick O'Toole (Romeo) share a moment.

Gabrielle Radak, Contributing Writer

Baldwin Wallace University’s Department of Theatre and Dance production of Romeo and Juliet ran from Oct. 8-18 at the William Allman Theatre. This debut main stage production of this year’s season was directed by department chair Adam Heffernan and assistant director senior Brandon Romano.
This particular production of Shakespeare’s well known play adds a modern twist without altering the original language.
Actors were dressed in modern garb, but spoke the original lines with only a few modernized parts.
Senior Roderick O’Toole  was the face of angsty teen-turned-lover Romeo. O’Toole gave Romeo the youthful vigor and emotional capacity needed for the role.
Junior Katie Willard portrayed Juliet as sprightly, naïve and innocent. Her movements were young and lively, bringing Juliet to life.
Sophomores Kelsey Baehrens (Mercutio) and Katy Hubbell (Benvolio) were the perfect wingmen to Romeo, going from drunk fraternity brothers to sober, serious friends. Junior Austin Gonser played Tybalt, a loud Capulet always looking for a fight.
Junior Joey Corradi played the gender bent Nurse, making for a hilarious companion to Juliet. There was never a dull moment when he was on stage.
Lady Capulet, played by junior Maggie Williams, was a stately mother-figure. She was paired nicely with Junior Malik Victorian, who showed much depth in his portrayal of Capulet.
Senior Caitlyn Engler played both Lady Montague and Peter, the Capulet’s servant. It was almost impossible to recognize her as she switched between these two roles.
Senior Nick Baldasare played a commanding Montague and eerie apothecary. Paris, played by sophomore Eric Dahl, was the very model of a gentleman.
Junior Joshua Smalley created a powerful Prince. His performance as the prologue set the tone for the production and helped the audience better understand the plot.
The set consisted of scaffolding and a backdrop resembling an old restoration painting of a busy street. The scaffolding gave actors more levels to play with as they acted, but I felt the backdrop was too busy to the point that it almost distracted viewers from the acting on stage.
BW alumni Sean Hussey composed an original soundtrack for the production, giving scene transitions and some musical moments an ethereal, dreamy feel.
In addition to the orignial soundtrack, there was both a preshow and intermission where actors performed covers of various songs pertaining to themes found within the show.
Staging kept the conflict central, showing exactly what was vital to each scene.
The party and graveyard scenes both exemplified this, driving the audience’s attention from the blooming love of Romeo and Juliet to their parent’s reconciliation over their graves. The fights, choreographed by Dustin Welch, were active and thrilling to watch.
This production included a scene after Juliet’s pseudo-death typically cut from most productions, giving a comedic relief to the audience.
Though a nice break from the tragedy, I felt it made the show feel more like a comedy.
The downfall to this play lies in the pace. It was difficult to understand actors unless they were directly facing the audience, and some actors rushed through their lines, causing their words to become a jumbled mess.
The scene changes often left the audience in temporary confusion. Some actors would run over lines and appear on stage before the lighting changed, making it difficult to keep track of where some scenes ended or began.
Overall, this production of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy was well done.Check the BW Theatre and Dance Facebook page for upcoming performances.