Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Romeo and Juliet

Emily Jo Seminoff and Colin Coate portray the star-crossed lovers.
Courtesy photo
“Romeo and Juliet” is Shakespeare’s most popular romance, and his most unnecessary tragedy. It is now moving audiences at the Woodland Opera House, under the direction of Rodger McDonald, who also gives a powerful performance as Friar Lawrence.

It’s a very odd set, designed by John Bowles, consisting of four gray-colored slanted platforms, placed one in front of the other across the entire stage to give different levels to the scenes in a sort of switchback effect (providing great opportunity for lively swordplay). But Denise Miles’ beautiful costumes place the cast right in the 16th century without need for more complicated set pieces.

Colin Coate is Romeo, in the throes of his first real love. He has the swagger and the bravado of a young man, when in the company of his friends, upholding the Montague family honor against the generations-long enemy, the Capulets, and yet is awkward and shy when in the presence of Juliet, who makes his hormones rage, though he does not quite know how to woo her.

As Juliet, Emily Jo Seminoff was demure and dazzling in a flowing virginal white gown. Nearly 14, and on the verge of puberty, she embraces this would-be suitor, swoons at thoughts of him and flirts shamelessly when in his presence. It is a gentle side of Seminoff I have not seen before and she carries it off beautifully. This Juliet is already defiant of her parents. She knows what she wants and she isn’t going to let family stand in her way.

Patricia Glass is superb as Juliet’s nurse and confidante. Hers was one of the strongest performances in the show.

Sara Wieringa is stunning in her role as Lady Capulet, portraying her as a strong woman yet distant as a mother and wife, while her husband (Steve Mackay) is determined that Juliet will wed the somewhat bland Paris (Gabe Avila) and will not hear any argument to the contrary.

Romeo’s cousin, Benvolio, is played by Luke Crabbe. He is a likeable fellow and loyal to his friend. It is Benvolio who helps Romeo hide after he murders Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Jay Patrick). Patrick seemed an odd choice for this role, as, in his Canadian Mountie red-colored coat and large black mustache, he seemed older than the rest of his friends.

Jason Oler, a familiar face to Sacramento audiences, makes his Woodland debut playing Mercutio. Neither Capulet nor Montague, it is Mercutio who sneaks Romeo into the Capulet masked ball, where he first sets eyes on Juliet. After Tybalt threatens Romeo’s life, Mercutio intends to engage him in a duel, but Romeo intervenes and inadvertently causes Mercutio’s death.

Others in the cast include Gil Sebastian and Jessica Woehler as Lord and Lady Montague and Sara Matsui-Colby as the Princess. Special mention also should be made of Mary and Melissa Dahlberg, whose job it was to be servants and stand around through endless scenes. They did it very well!

There is no program credit given for choreography of the fight scenes, but the swordplay was very well done, and probably would have pleased Errol Flynn himself.

The death scene is very touching … and painful … realizing what family feuds can cost. The arrangement of the stage allows for the entire cast to be on stage when the lovers die, which makes for a lovely tableau.

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