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Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Youthful ‘Romeo and Juliet’

First Stage’s Young Company gets a taste of tragedy

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Photo by Paul Ruffolo
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First Stage’s Young Company production of Romeo and Juliet did justice to the drama and served as an education for much of its cast. Shakespeare’s tragedy was enacted at the Rosa Parks Auditorium at Golda Meir School right around the corner from the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Set, lighting and costuming were breathtakingly simple. Capulets and Montagues wore turquoise and purple, respectively. The script was stripped to a lean 90 minutes with no intermission.

First Stage knew exactly what it was capable of doing for this production and it executed it with a smart sense of economy. The cast consisted almost entirely of high school students in a college-level actor-training program. Those students were accompanied by a couple of seasoned and talented professionals. Marcella Kearns and Matthew Wickey were precisely placed in the roles of nurse and friar, respectively.

It’s fascinating to watch tragedy like this glide across the stage. By this point in a young actor’s education, he/she has navigated through first principles and come to understand the augmented reality of theater on a level sophisticated enough to truly begin to give him/herself to the role. It’s interesting to see this play out in Romeo and Juliet as the drama weighs so heavily on the passions of youth.

Romeo and Juliet enjoyed a brief run, May 16-17.