Opening Nights: Romeo and Juliet

Gonads gone gaga, al fresco.

A gaggle of brown-shrouded figures emerges from the woods, hooded, muttering the prologue of the tragedy that turned teen hormones into high art. Appropriately, these voices jostle and abrade one another with increasing hostility, like the Capulets and Montagues. Touches like this make GreenStage's Romeo and Juliet a subtly subversive treat. Romeo (goofy and gracile Ryan Higgins), a crasher at the Capulet ball, first spies Juliet (Carolyn Marie Monroe) through Polaroid lenses in his mask. Of course she'll pop into 3-D for him! Is their love the product merely of gonads gone gaga? Who cares, they're giddy, we're game, and soon a balcony will become the most romantic room in the house.Director Corey McDaniel withholds some fire from the first meeting, but lets the embers catch and blaze later—where else?—on the balcony. The lovers-to-be lob their infatuation like verbal cannonballs, each causing the other to stagger upon impact. Higgins' Romeo hemorrhages torrents of words with the dawning awareness he's being a dork, even as he basks in Juliet's acceptance. She, sartorially sexy in slashed sleeves baring slits of the most delicate inner arm, blooms, flinches, and self-flagellates her way through that most hopeful of exchanges. Once she's left, Romeo goes gorilla, pounding the dirt in "do-a-little-dance" delight, sending great clouds of dust up around him. (This performance was on the turf at Woodland Park.)In a traveling outdoor show, sets are virtually nonexistent; architectural features like the balcony and the Capulet family crypt are, in typical GreenStage style, approximated by extras wearing cloaks. Both Romeo and Juliet wade into the audience, the difficulty of which nicely suggests the obstacles that separate them. The 12-member cast generally manages to project over traffic noise, barking dogs, and airplanes. As Juliet's opportunistic Nurse, Mari Geasair kills with her three-tone voice: one sweet, one screechy, and one that blasts like Beelzebub with bronchitis. Annie Rose Hughes makes blustery work of a macho, chest-pounding Mercutio, then returns as a pillow-bellied, brogue-blabbering Friar John.Still, despite the good acting and graceful swordplay, the play felt longer than its two hours and might have benefited from some strategic pruning. By the time the bodies came to rest, the sun had too. The floor lights cast a fiery underglow on the survivors, as though they were being slowly grilled over Hell. 

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