Jacksonville University’s Theatre Program presented “Romeo and Juliet,” William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, during October 1 – November 3, 2019. The tragedy of the star-crossed lovers was staged in the Swisher Theatre and directed by Deborah Jordon.
Scholars think The Bard wrote the play around 1594; a printed edition was released in 1597. And while we don’t know the date or location of the play’s debut, we do know that Renaissance plays were longer than those of today; productions could easily extend to three or four hours. From the director’s perspective, some editing was needed. She shortened the stage time to two hours, but still captured the comedy of the first part and the passion, poetry, and violence of the second.
The production was a major undertaking, with a cast of twenty, augmented by multiple ensemble members, and eighty -plus crew members. The scenic design by Johnny Pettegrew featured a constantly changing set, made possible by projected floor-to-ceiling images of interior and outdoor spaces. Wilson’ dynamic lighting design highlighted the dramatic story. Curtis J. Williams’ period costumes provided strong visual support for the setting and the story.
Student members of the cast included Angel Gavillan (Romeo), Kalei Dela Cruz (Lady Montague), Axel Berry (Benvolio), Kristen Oliver (Mecutio), Loudise Ortiz-Hernandez (Abraham), Taylor Crites (Balthasar), Tyler Alessi (Prince), Svetlana Davidenko (Juliet), Stephen Williams (Lord Capulet), Danielle Dubois (Lady Capulet), Christian Torres (Tybalt), Hayley Smith (Nurse), James Demps (Peter), Brian Champion (Sampson), Jayden Charles (Gregory), Jeremy Ferri (Paris), Erich Freiberger (Friar Laurence), Dale Patrick (Friar John), and Dominick Strada (Apothecary). Additionally, the cast included educators Dr. Erich Freiberger (Friar Laurence), Dr. Tyler Alessi (Prince) and Greg Stites (Lord Montague).
We found it a fine evening of theatre. While the play has been adapted multiple times for film, stage, musical, and operatic versions over the centuries, we especially appreciated the immersive experience of viewing Shakespeare’s original version.
A note on upcoming productions: JU will be staging “In the Heights,” an award-winning musical during January 17 – 19, 2020. See jutickets.com for additional information.