by DICK KEREKES
Can you imagine Romeo and Juliet as a comedy? Theatre Jacksonville presented its first Jr. Mainstage production on September 25 and 26 at the Harold K. Smith Playhouse in San Marco. Educational Outreach Coordinator Juan Unzueta came up with the idea for this production to raise funds for the theatre’s educational programs and he directed Playwright Peter Bloedel’s hilarious version of the Shakespeare classic, Romeo and Juliet. His is titled The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet.
The twelve talented performers used the set now on stage for the TJ”s real version of Romeo and Juliet that is current showing. In addition, they were able to use the professional lighting as well.(thanks to light operator, Greg Odernwald).
The playwright used the style of Dr. Seuss, with clever lines that recreated the story in modern terms with special emphasis on pleasing the younger set. (Although adults, like me, were laughing as much as the youngsters in the audience). For example Romeo used a laptop computer in one short scene, and the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio was done with balloons on a stick.
As many times as I have seen Romeo and Juliet, I have never liked the ending because Romeo and Juliet both die. Well, at last a version where they both live and their families celebrate and end their feuding!!
A number of local schools were represented by the cast and included, Douglas Anderson, Paxon School for Advance Studies, James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory, Darnell Cookman School of the Medical Arts, Fletcher High School, and University of North Florida. In addition several cast members were “veterans” of Theatre Jacksonville’s summer camp, held each year in June and July.
The entire cast performed well. They used every bit of the massive two-story set which had multiple exits and entrances. They were well rehearsed and sounded line-perfect to me.
The costumes were comic and colorful. The Monotone family wore green tee shirts with an “X” on the front, the Capitulates, yellow shirts with an “O”. Romeo wore a red tee shirt with Kid #1 on the front, and Juliet, the same color with Kid # 2.
The Theatre Jacksonville staff assisted in the technical, the props and the costumes with assistance by volunteers, Caryn Thomas, Cathy Driscoll, Blake Osner, Miles Para and Derrick Routier.
The very talented cast and the various roles they played included: Nicki Ercolino(Narrator #1), Natalie Comeaux (Narrator # 2 / Lady Monotone), Derrick Routier J (Lord Monotone/ Paris), Lizzie May(Sampson/Tybalt) Charlandra Smith (Gregory/The Prince/Servant), Miles Laura Para (Abram/Nurse/Monk Larry), Jalen Roark(Balthasar/Benvolio, Gabriela Fernandez (Lord Capitulate) Kaitie Wilson (Lady Capitulate, Connor Driscoll (Romeo), Daniele Jane Thomas (Juliet) and Isabella Martinez (Mercutio).
I talked with Director Unzueta after the show and he is hoping to do another Jr. Mainstage production next spring if he can tie it in with a TJ production at that time. He was pleased with the large and enthusiastic audience that attended the Saturday afternoon performance.
I had never seen a Shakespeare play done in 45 minutes, so this was not only a unique experience for me, but a real treat and lots of fun too. The audience made up of all ages, certainly enjoyed it.
You can still catch the wonderful “real Romeo and Juliet on stage at Theatre Jacksonville until October 3rd. All tickets specially priced at only $l0, call 396-4425 for reservations. Don’t miss it.
THE SEUSSIFICATION OF ROMEO & JULIET theatre review
by DICK KEREKES