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Classic Theatre of Maryland’s Romeo & Juliet

Joshua Olumide as Romeo and Kira Bennett as Juliet in Classic Theatre of Maryland’s Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Sally Boyett.

Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers Comes to Annapolis

By Jim Reiter

Classic Theatre of Maryland (formerly Annapolis Shakespeare Company) is welcoming live audiences back to its main stage for the kickoff of its 2021-2022 season with an engrossing production of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s tragedy about two star-crossed lovers. For centuries the play has been the model by which so many subsequent romances have been portrayed, yet it remains relevant thanks to Shakespeare’s ageless writing and CTM’s fresh artistic and technical approach.

Directed by CTM’s producing artistic director Sally Boyett and featuring a talented professional cast led by Joshua Olumide as Romeo and Kira Bennett as Juliet, the production is being featured live in CTM’s 125-seat main stage theater.

You know the story: Romeo’s Montagues and Juliet’s Capulets are feuding. The two meet when Romeo brashly attends a Capulet function, anger ensues among Juliet’s side, yet in the famous balcony scene Romeo overhears Juliet profess her love for him, they rush to wed … and tragedy ensues.

Boyett’s direction keeps the pace moving, and her actors invest their characters with clarity and depth. Both Olumide’s and Bennett’s interpretations of the Verona duo are nicely realized, and while both occasionally allow their vocal volume to dip, their individual performances are filled with life and as a couple their chemistry is obvious. Their joy in the balcony scene is matched only by their palpable grief later in the show when death’s grip takes hold.

Nancy Krebs offers up a delightfully lively turn as Juliet’s nurse, and Justino Brokaw’s Friar Lawrence is perfect as the man who at first predicts the course of events and then plays a key role in their development.

The technical aspects of the production are also well done. Period costumes are a highlight, and many are simply stunning. CTM’s main stage is a soaring space, allowing for a well-utilized multi-level set, and a lighting design that is very effective at producing an involving atmosphere for each scene. Sound design, with period music and voices, is a standout as well. And the sword fights are as realistic as you’ll ever see on a stage, believable and effective, with excellent choreography crisply wielded by the actors.

CTM’s Romeo and Juliet begins with a beautiful tableau, and ends with the same tableau. It’s the coming together of two families whose shared tragedy mends their hate. It beautifully bookends a production that is, even after all these centuries, as involving emotionally as it is beautiful to watch.    

Romeo & Juliet: About two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission; runs through October 31; ticket prices are $68-$55 for adults with discounts for military, seniors, and young professionals; for tickets visit classictheatremaryland.org or call 410-415-3513.