Beginning this weekend, one of the Bard's most popular tragedies, Romeo and Juliet, is brought to life with lively, contemporary music, colorful costumes and simple but effective set in Shakespeare on the Sound's latest summer production.
Romeo and Juliet is performed nightly (with exceptions of Mondays and Fourth of July) at 7:30 pm sharp at Greenwich's Baldwin Park until Sunday, July 8th. The production then moves up to the coast to Rowayton's Pinkney Park from July 18 to July 29.
Bring your picnics or purchase gourmet sandwiches from Greenwich's Aux Delices and delicious ice cream treats from Rowayton's Brendan's 101. The waterfront views are spectacular and early visitors are invited to attend pre-show children's activities, including an abbreviated performance by the company's young apprentices.
It's a family event. Director Joanna Settle said children, in general, do not get caught up in the Elizabethan verse. Instead, they are swept away by Shakespeare's dramatic plots and the character's emotions.
And, in this production of Romeo and Juliet, there is an abundance of fiery feelings from the slightly crazed Mercutio, hysterical hand-wringing from Nurse, giddy soliloquys from a quintessentially-innocent Juliet and, of course, gut-wrenching passion from our Romeo. William Jackson Harper returns to Connecticut's Shakespeare on the Sound after delighting audiences last summer as the always authentic and charming romantic lead in Much Ado About Nothing. His turn as Romeo is both appropriately naive and wistful and wise. He is tortured by his all-consuming love. Yet, when he holds the vial of poison, that leads to his untimely death, I wanted to cry out, "No! Don't do it!"
We were sitting close enough to see his continuous range of emotions--wrestling with the all-consuming emotions of desire mixed in with an uncanny cognizance of where this love was leading. His open, un-self-conscious approach to courtship is fresh. We remember what it was like to, indeed, wear our love on our sleeves and do whatever is necessary to sustain these all-consuming feelings.
I applaud Settle for her use of the park itself as a stage. In a talk-back after this Saturday's performance, a young person asked her why she used the balcony for characters, rather than Juliet for the infamous scene where she asks "Where for art thou, Romeo?" Settle replied that she didn't want the audience so far removed from the interplay between Romeo and Juliet. Instead, she wanted them to be fully engaged, and literally in the middle of the drama. So, as they get to know each other so eloquently through words of love and witty interplay of verse, Juliet is onstage while Romeo is located on a footbridge, located in the middle of the audience.
I found it uncanny that somehow the play was remarkably timed to coincide with Greenwich's sunset. That is, as the drama unfolding before us gets darker as the sun around us lowered over the pristine harbor. We, the audience, were further drawn into the drama unfolding in front of us.
I highly recommend Fairfield County families indulge in a night of love, wit and, yes, the sometimes tragic circumstances that surround human love. Shakespeare on the Sound offers free performances but donations are welcome.