Is Shakespeare R&J a new take on Romeo and Juliet — or a throwback to the theater before King Charles II when women were not allowed on stage and men played all the roles?
Playwright Joe Calarco has reset Romeo and Juliet in a Catholic New England boarding school for boys. Reading Romeo and Juliet is forbidden. Why we never know, though the boys’ reaction may be reason enough.
For Dignity Players, Director Edd Miller creates a wonderful introduction, full of the exuberant energy of teenage boys and their crude delight in realizing just how bawdy Shakespeare can be. He coaxes extraordinary performances from four young men, three in college, one in high school, who then act out the forbidden play.
Eric Schaum plays Jessie, who plays Juliet. Schaum was impressive in Colonial Player’s The Diviners and continues to impress with this role, portraying Juliet’s infatuation and despair with equal skill.
Marty Thompson plays Gene, who plays Romeo, capturing the range of his emotions from fury to tenderness, confusion to giddiness.
Sammy Stagg plays Skip, who plays Tybalt and the Nurse. His nurse brings needed humor and his Tybalt the needed anguish in the critical fight scene.
Will Poxon plays Charlie, who plays Lady Capulet, Mercutio and Friar Lawrence. Poxon has to range widely with his characters and he does so with both vocal and physical dexterity.
As in Dignity Players’ last production, Stones in His Pockets, R&J is a showcase for acting versatility with small casts in multiple roles.
The four actors on stage the entire time in a true tour de force of acting. With them are only a few boxes, a bench and a long red scarf that works brilliantly as a multi-purpose prop.
Production Manager: Victoria Barstow. Lighting and sound technician: Kevin Schaum.
Playing Th-Sa Aug. 9-11 at 8pm at Dignity Players Theatre, Unitarian Universalist Church, 333 Dubois Rd., Annapolis. $15 Th; $20 FSa: 410-266-8044 x127; www.dignityplayers.org.