Director Tony Kennick transports the action from fair Verona to 1920s prohibition America. Booze is supped surreptitiously in Friar Lawrence’s speakeasy and the weapons of choice are guns, knives and baseball bats rather than swords.
A female lead as Romeo works well. Chrissy Almond and Hannah Holland are the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Despite their youth, they are confident performers and handle the difficult Shakespearean verse with panache. The tragic ending can be easily overdone but their reflective, balanced approach is very well done.
Some of the players are more used to contemporary dialogue and appeared a bit nervous but this abridged version of the bard’s doomed romance works well.
In particular there were three fine cameos. Ian Fallon is wonderful as Mercutio. He delights in dancing about the stage waving his arms around in bold Italian-American gestures, waxing lyrical about love. He enjoys wrapping his tastebuds around Shakespeare’s words like he is enjoying a fine wine.
Valerie Monti Holland as Nurse is a fine dramatic actress. Although having many serious moments, her best bit is comedic, complaining excessively about her aching bones while poor Juliet waits for news of Romeo.
Last but not least, John Lowry is convincing as Friar Lawrence. He turns Romeo from a desperate exile to a celebrating romantic during a rousing speech. He is also assistant director to Tony Kennick.
The shorter version and modern setting helped make this show more accessible and enjoyable for those daunted by the bard’s tricky language.