Romeo and Juliet at Colorado Shakespeare Festival

Romeo, son of Montague of the house of Montague, loves Rosaline, niece of Capulet of the house of Capulet and pines that he can never see her, since the members and servants of the two families are bitter enemies. Through a fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) circumstance, he learns that Capulet is giving a ball that very night.

Romeo attends, masked, hoping to see Rosaline. However, when he sees Juliet – Capule’s 14-year-old daughter  – he immediately forgets Rosaline and falls in love with her. And when Juliet sees Romeo, she falls in love with him at first sight, also.

Unfortunately, the hot-headed Tybalt, nephew of Lady Capulet and therefore Juliet’s cousin, recognizes Romeo and is furious that he has come to the ball. He vows vengeance on the upstart Montague.

And thus is set in motion the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet – two young lovers who are fated to be together…only in death.

Romeo-sees-Juliet

Masked Romeo (Dante Rossi) is transfixed by the sight of Juliet on the stairs across the room, while attendees of the Capulet ball dance, including Count(y) Paris (Rodney Lizacano), Benvolio (Jessica Robblee), Lady and Lord Capulet behind them (Robert Sicular and Mare Trevathan), Tybalt (Marco Robinson), Gregory (Rakeem Lawrence) and Balthasar (Amber Scales). Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

The same actors who’ve been bringing tears of laughter to the eyes of  audience members in the uproariously funny Twelfth Night are now bringing tears of another kind with the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s production stars Dante Rossi as the young and impetuous Romeo and Madison Hart as the even younger Juliet. Rossi plays the young and somewhat fickle lover well. (As he casually tells Friar Lawrence, “With Rosaline, my ghostly father? no; I have forgot that name, and that name’s woe.”)

Madison Hart’s Juliet is profoundly moving, as she falls so deeply in love with Romeo, and prays that he will be true to her. When her parents abuse her after she begs for a delay in her marriage to Count(y) Paris (after her secret marriage to Romeo), her despair and desperation is palpable.

Romeo (Dante Rossi) climbs to Juliet's (adison Hart) balcony

Romeo (Dante Rossi) climbs to Juliet’s (Madison Hart) balcony. Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

Robert Sicular as Capulet displays not so much anger at Juliet as incandescent rage, at her and at his wife. The Capulets and Montagues are not nobles, but the Capulets at least wish to marry into the nobility and County Paris does truly love Juliet. Sicular’s Capulet acts with unseemly haste – arranging for Paris to marry his daughter not on Wednesday, as that would be too soon after the death of Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin…so they’re going to delay a day and get married on Thursday, instead.

Rodney Lizcano is sympathetic in the minor role of County Paris (after his scene-stealing role as the courting Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night).

Marco Robinson plays the hot-headed Tybalt, ready to challenge any and everyone who challenges his family’s status. His duel – verbally and then sword against sword – is a delight…until his opponent Mercutio comes out on the losing end thanks to Romeo’s attempt to prevent that very thing. Robinson’s Tybalt clearly never intended to hurt Mercutio…indeed he returns a few minutes later to see how Mercutio is. Unfortunately for him Mercutio is dead and Romeo takes out his own guilt at Mercutio’s death on Tybalt.

Mercutio, a kindsman of Escalus, Prince of Verona, and Benvolio, Romeo’s best friend, are played by Anne Penner and Jessica Robblee respectively. Each plays their male character as a male, convincingly. Penner is not in Twelfth Night, but there’s quite a contrast between Robblee’s Benvolio and the “in love at first sight with Cesario” Olivia in Twelfth Night.

Mercutio-dies

“A plague on both your houses,” grits the dying Mecutio (Anne Penner) to Romeo (Dante Rossi) while the horrified Benvolio (Jessica Robblee) looks on. Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

The much needed humor in the play is brought by Emma Messenger who is an absolute delight as Juliet’s Nurse, and to a lesser extent by Gareth Saxe’s Friar Lawrence who attempts to counsel Romeo on patience when it comes to women – to no avail.

Saxe embodies the Friar’s frustration as well, as he tries desperately first to end the feud between the Montagues and Capulets by joining the young lovers in holy matrimony, and then desperately trying to save the situation with Romeo banished and the desperate Juliet being forced into marriage by her cold and angry parents.

pullyoursocksup

Friar Lawrence (Gareth Saxe) attempts to calm the distraught Romeo, who has learned he has been banished from Verona. Nurse (Emma Messenger) is more concerned about the fate of Juliet.  Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

No matter how many times one may have seen Romeo and Juliet, by the end of this production the audience will be emotionally wrung out, so real and spontaneous seem the characters – perhaps even having hoped against hope that this time Friar John will make it to Mantua and banished Romeo in time, or that Juliet will wake up just a little bit sooner…but it will never happen and can never happen, “For never was a story of more woe, Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

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