Romeo and Juliet at Look Park
By TZIVIA GOVER, Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 21, 1998 -- (Northampton) - "Romeo
and Juliet" has been performed in courtyards, in black box theaters and on the silver
screen. Actors have cursed the houses of Montague and Capulet while wearing everything
from Elizabethan tights to denim. This tale has been superimposed over 1950s gang-ridden
New York with dueling switchblades, and '90s Los Angeles with blasting bullets. What's
How about this: When Juliet rages at nature and the heavens after discovering that her
new husband has been banished for killing her cousin, have nature and the heavens answer.
That's what happened when Hampshire Shakespeare Company staged the classic love story
outdoors Friday night in the Pines Theater in Look Park.
In Act III, as Juliet cried "What storm is this that blows so contrary?"
thunder overhead bellowed back. And when she railed against the complexity of the human
heart complaining, "O, nature! what hadst thou to do in hell," New England's
fickle nature replied with a bolt of lightning crackling through the clouds that had
amassed above the stage.
Unfortunately, these were unplanned additions to the script and the show was called at
the close of Juliet's powerful speech. In fact, this was the second night in a row that
the outdoor show was canceled, causing it to open in full, finally, on Saturday night.
That nature's special effects did not upstage the actors' efforts was in itself
remarkable. The players kept their poise as the night's storm built along with the drama.
As usual, the company held to a traditional interpretation of the script, including
costumes by Nona Monahin in the Elizabethan style.
For this summer's "Romeo and Juliet," professionals were recruited to teach
the actors swordplay and Renaissance dance, making for some well-choreographed footwork.
One of the pleasures of returning to Hampshire Shakespeare year after year is seeing
actors turn up in varied roles and playing off one another in new combinations. Walter
Carroll as Capulet, Maureen McElligott as the servant Peter, and Laura Patnode were among
the welcome returns. Sarah Wilson (who has produced and directed previous productions)
livened up the role of Juliet's nurse with a hilarious performance.
Hampshire Shakespeare veterans Jonathan Polgar as Benvolio and Bill Stewart as Mercutio
worked in tandem as believable and likable teen-aged buddies. Together they mocked their
elders, teased their love-sick pal Romeo, and stood steadfastly by one another.
Of course, the pair on which success depended was that of Romeo and Juliet. Ned Dunn as
Romeo was an appealing swain, perfectly portraying the sudden intensity of youth's
passions. The 16-year-old Jordana Harper-Ewert as Juliet managed to make even lines as
well-worn as "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo," sound newly hatched.
Director Timothy Holcomb wisely preserved the freshness of the actors' actual youth while
insisting on a professional presentation.
It may well be that there is nothing new under the sun. But when there are timeless
classics like "Romeo and Juliet" and earnest companies like Hampshire
Shakespeare to keep them with us, it hardly seems to matter.
"Romeo and Juliet" continues through Aug. 1 at the Pines Theater in
Northampton Fridays and Saturdays and in the garden of the Lord Jeffery Inn in Amherst
Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. All shows begin at 7 p.m., and rain checks are available
if the show has to be called for weather. Tickets are $12 or $6 for seniors and students.
Call 548-8118 for information.
© Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.