REVIEW | 'Romeo And Juliet' Unique staging updates classic play

The cast of the Youngstown Playhouse production gave excellent performances.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
No need to wonder any longer. The romantic young lover can be found at Youngstown Playhouse where "Romeo and Juliet," the visual interpretation of a story about family feuds and star-crossed lovers, opened Friday night.
Well-acted, this rather unique, experimental production of Shakespeare's tragic play about ill-fated lovers is made even more engrossing for Shakespearean aficionados by virtue of excellent casting by director, Robert Vargo.
Although familiar with the oft-told tale, the audience on Friday night was captivated by the performances and by a rather sparse but effective setting that imaginatively transported them back to medieval times when honor, glory and parental dominance were the norm.
Family feud: The action in "Romeo and Juliet" begins in Verona, Italy, where trouble brews when servants of the Montague and Capulet families start quarreling. Their squabbles escalate into an ongoing feud as their complaints are taken up by members of the reigning families. Only timely intervention by authorities prevents bloodshed.
Although uninvited, the melancholy young Romeo (Kenneth Oberholtzer) attends a ball held by the hated Capulets. There he spies Juliet (Amber Park) and the two fall hopelessly in love only to discover that she is a Capulet and he is a Montague.
Refusing to let family feuding deter him, Romeo hides beneath Juliet's window and when he spies her, offers his unforgettable soliloquy "What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!"
After vowing their undying love, the very young couple visits Friar Lawrence (Terry Shears) who, against his better judgment, marries them.
More fighting erupts and Romeo is banished after slaying an aggressive Capulet named Tybalt (Josh Coy). Since banishment is deemed as final as death, Juliet is told she must obey her father (Don Donnelly) and marry one of her suitors named Paris (Jasen Green).
Tragic end: Even the interjection of her devoted nurse (the delightful Barbara Evans) cannot save Juliet from the unwelcome marriage. However, unwilling to accept her fate, Juliet threatens suicide. But she is finally persuaded by the friar to take a distilled liquor that will help her fake death until Romeo can return and spirit her away.
When the message alerting Romeo to the plan is not delivered, he presumes she is really dead. The heartbroken hero visits her tomb when he finds Paris and slays him during a duel.
Hoping to join Juliet in death, the distraught Romeo drinks poison. Tragically, Juliet awakens from her self-induced sleep and, finding her lover dead, in despair stabs herself with Romeo's dagger. The unnecessary deaths bring an end to the feud between the families.
Cast members: Among those filling major roles in the production are Walter Acevedo, Joshua Daffren, Jonathan Emerson, Keith Maguire, Wayne Merlock, Robert Shipley Jr., Ben Solomon, Valerie Thomas, Tom Therne, and Sara Wickline. They had the able assistance of a group of other well-school youths.
Although broadly based on the well-known tale of Romeo and Juliet, the Playhouse chose to update the costumes, distinguishing the families by dressing Montagues in green shirts and the Capulets in yellow shirts.
Those familiar with the plot will be well-pleased with the quality of the acting. However, on opening night it was disturbing that the voices of several members of the young cast failed to project beyond the apron of the stage.

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