The Citadel Theatre’s Citadel/Banff Centre Professional Program takes a cadre of young professional theatre artists every year, and after a period of full-time work together produces one play in the Citadel season. Last year it was The Penelopiad. This year it is Romeo and Juliet. Tom Wood directed the play, and Professional Program participant Andrew Ritchie is credited as Assistant Director.
I’ve read the play through a few times and encountered many adaptations and variations of the star-crossed lovers’ tragedy, from West Side Story to Good Night Desdemona Good Morning Juliet to the Hudson’s Bay Company/Northwest Company concept a friend is working on. Productions of Romeo and Juliet are used as background in a season of Slings and Arrows, in one of Norma Johnston’s young adult novels, in Mieko Ouchi’s play I Am For You, and in many other stories, so that it’s possible to fake a familiarity with the story without ever reading or seeing it directly.
Last night was my first time ever seeing the play. After seeing several recent Shakespearean productions in simpler costumes of more recent periods, it was a pleasure to see this production dressed in rich embroidered brocades and heavy fabrics that felt approximately traditional. The men’s trousers seemed like skinny jeans with goaltender jockstraps on top, but I guess that made sense in a culture that valued decoration but had a lot of swordfighting. Juliet had about six different outfits. The costume design also allowed for the audience to enjoy some shirtless fight scenes and some brief appropriate nakedness.
The ensemble includes alternating casting for Romeo and Juliet. On the night I attended, Romeo was Morgan David Jones, whose bio suggests that his roots are in Australia rather than Wales, and Juliet was Rose Napoli. Both of them did a good job portraying the adolescent ranges of emotion needed for the characters and were credible as teenagers. Especially considering that they both die before intermission, Jamie Cavanagh as Mercutio and Nick Abraham as Tybalt both made an impression on me as memorable characters. Cavanagh, whom I first encountered in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago at Fringe 2012, was perfect for Mercutio’s cocky repartee with the young men of the Montague crowd and lewd asides with the Nurse (Louise Lambert). Abraham’s Tybalt, presumably nicknamed King of Cats for his swordfighting prowess, tosses his dreadlocks with an aloof confidence and secret pride that in this production arises also out of what appears to be a passionate affair with Lady Capulet (who is his aunt) (Mabelle Carvajal in the production I saw). Early on Juliet accidentally sees her mother embracing Tybalt, which helps to explain her reluctance to confide in her mother later.
I didn’t find the other characters quite as memorable. Chris W. Cook was the servant Peter, not as annoyingly foolish as some other Shakespearean message-bearers. Jamie Williams and Patrick Lundeen were the well-meaning Friar Lawrence and Brother John.
The really sad thing about the story of Romeo and Juliet was not that the deaths were inevitable. It’s that on the other hand they were so close to a feasible happy ending that just didn’t work out because of miscommunication and their own impatience. Which left me irritated and not uplifted. Also, I got thinking of how the trope of using a sleeping potion to feign death was also a plot point in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which we closed the night before, and how it didn’t work out there either.
Romeo and Juliet continues in the Maclab Theatre at the Citadel until Sunday April 27th. Tickets are available through the Citadel website. Mary Poppins is upstairs in the Shoctor Theatre until April 20th, and the Citadel season will wrap up with Make Mine Love, May 10th to June 1st.