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Friday, April 4, 2014

'Romeo and Juliet' for Seniors

Age doesn’t matter in Off the Wall’s production

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Off the Wall Theatre conjures an interesting atmosphere for its production of Romeo and Juliet. The audience is welcomed into its intimate studio space by residents, doctors and nurses at a 1960s retirement home. The show is introduced as a low-budget production starring some of the residents. It’s a clever way to allow for far older casting than would normally be given to the title characters. This would be little more than a cheap gimmick if the production didn’t have anything else going for it, though thankfully, this is not the case. 

Dale Gutzman and Marilyn White are respectably believable in the title roles. It’s difficult for an actor of any age to bring the crushing wonder and exhilaration of Shakespeare’s romance to the stage. Gutzman and White manage to capture a little of that here. These two central actors are cast so far against type that they give the rest of the cast room to focus on the emotional reality of the play without having to worry at all how everything looks to the audience.

There are some good performances in the rest of the ensemble. Jason Will wields a rakish restlessness as Mercutio. Will’s charm makes the character’s fate feel that much more motivating than it often is. David Flores is endearingly sympathetic as Juliet’s nurse. Jeremy C. Welter tempers sympathy with delicately rendered wisdom and authority as Friar Lawrence. Tairre Christopherson manages a refreshingly sympathetic portrayal of paternal authority in his handling of Juliet’s father, adding considerable nuance to the dramatic fingerprint of this particular trip to Verona to witness the ill-fated love of two people.

Off the Wall Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet runs through April 6, at 127 E. Wells St. For tickets, call 414-484-8874 or visit offthewalltheatre.com.