Playing through March 23rd at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Navy Pier), Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet is a beautiful, family focused adaptation of the classic love story/ tragedy. Although I am a big fan of the Short Shakespeare! Series, I was still a little nervous bringing my nine year old daughter to her first double suicide. Fortunately, the fine folks on the Pier have more than a little experience bringing the tragic to stage and my daughter loved the performance (although I think she would have preferred a happier ending). Methinks veteran theater goers (with or without kids) will also find much to recommend here.
Rachel Rockwell (credited as both director and adapter) excises plenty of fat, but very little muscle in bringing to stage a lean, but imaginative narrative of the two star crossed lovers. Chicago native Laura Rook excels here as the often silly and doe eyed Juliet who alternates between dutiful service to her family and passion for her lover. Playing opposite her is Christopher Allen as the more serious minded, but no less in love Romeo. Jeb Burris (Mercutio) and Samuel Ashdown (Tybalt) also put in scene stealing performances as men of emotion itching for violence and retribution. And Maureen Gallagher (Juliet’s nurse), Kurt Ehrmann (Lord Capulet), and Nicholas Harazin (Benvolio) serve as steadying and constant force on stage.
Superior acting is not the only hook here. The production also features some truly awesome fight scenes choreographed by Matt Hawkins (Chicago Shakespeare’s current production of Julius Caesar, performed on the same stage as Romeo and Juliet, also features his work). Composer Ethan Deppe provides just the right amount of music to underscore the action on stage. Other nifty touches included presenting some scenes in parallel which not only reduced the running time (which must be a constant pressure in realizing this production) but also allowed for a neat visual effect.
As they do with great regularity, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater again reminds its audience that sex, love, murder, and rage play as well this century as they did four hundred years ago. I cannot think of better family entertainment.
Bottom Line: Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet is highly recommended for pre-teen through elderly audiences. Although my nine year old daughter did enjoy the play, I suspect (maybe hope) that some of the themes went over her head. This play is running every Saturday now through March 23, 2013. Tickets range from $16 to $20 (or just a little more than a movie ticket) and parking, when validated, will run you another $14. For more information about this play or to purchase tickets, click here: http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,76,2,14 For more reviews of this and other plays, click here: www.theaterinchicago.com .
Photos by Michael Brosilow