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ROMEO AND JULIET The Saul Elkin Stage/Shakespeare in Delaware Park
Aug 3, 2023, 14:19
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Through August 20
ROMEO AND JULIET The Saul Elkin Stage/Shakespeare in Delaware Park

By Augustine Warner

Let’s see: It took place in “fair Verona” or in Florida with everyone carrying guns or in London with clanking swords or was watched in Stratford’s Festival Theatre with a teen audience quieting as the story unfolds.
We don’t have swords here, since the fighting is more Bruce Lee than Prince Valiant, with only one Bowie Knife for sticking.
It’s Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” getting an erratic production from Shakespeare in the Park.The set and the costumes are pretty modern, although I have no idea what the surf shop is about.
I will have to ask my niece, who surfs.
Director Chris Kelly says it’s based on the seaside community of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The show does benefit from strong performances from Romeo (Aidan Conklin) and Juliet (Erin Grace Kelly), young enough to be plausible in the roles.
It’s teens, perhaps stupid in the way teens can be (from my personal experience) in a time when violence rules the streets and Verona is torn by struggles between the Montagues and the Capulets.
Romeo and Juliet meet when he crashes her family party to which no one in his family would be invited.
Within days, they are married and entombed in death.
Even Nurse (a wonderful Pamela Rose Mangus) and Friar Lawrence (Chris Hatch) may be adult supervision but they fail in supervising.
This is a time when Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet (Mike Garvey) can order her to marry the County Paris (David Wysocki) because she can’t admit she’s already married, to Romeo.
This is a tragedy of social conditioning, tolerated violence, control of women and teen stupidity.
This is a story familiar to each generation, to be learned by the youngest watching from Shakespeare Hill of what can happen when things go wrong after a dumb decision.
Think of the annual array of traffic deaths on Prom Weekend or Graduation Weekend.
This production has some real strong points, particularly those scenes of Juliet and her nurse and the scuffle between Tybalt (James Delano) and Mercutio (Adam Koda) which leads to the scuffle’s continuation between Romeo and Tybalt, overall leaving Tybalt and Mercutio dead.
Four centuries on, this remains a relevant story of sins of the fathers bearing down on the children, a continuing lesson.
It really helps if you know the story since there are spasms of incoherence in the stage presentation, while having strong points as the story rolls along with only one stoppage (for passing the hat), using quick scene changes, effective lighting and lots of movement.
That’s Chris Kelly’s role.
The production offers comedy, tragedy and instruction to our day, along with some strong performances under a darkening sky and the urban life of the venue.
“Romeo and Juliet” remains perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest gift to the 21st Century.

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