George Mason High School
As the theater darkened, actors and actresses of Bishop O'Connell High School began reciting the famous prologue of Romeo and Juliet. Different lines were read by each person, their faces illuminated only by the glow of a flashlight. A beautiful stage picture and inventive use of lighting created a segue into the performance of one of Shakespeare's biggest classics.
Originally published in 1597, William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, the play detailing the story of two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo of the house of Montague, and Juliet of the house of Capulet, fall in love. The play details this forbidden love and just how deeply some feuds and rivals run. As one of Shakespeare's masterpieces, this play would model for countless adaptations and similar stories of feuds and star-crossed lovers for many years to come.
This classic story was transformed by the O'Connell players with the decision to set it in 1940s New York. Along with this choice came well-crafted sets and many effective costumes. Juliet's bedroom proved to be one of the most effective sets of the show, incorporating different elements including light purple walls with era-appropriate pictures tacked on them. In terms of costumes, many ladies were dressed in costumes fit well to the time. However, some of the costumes, particularly for male characters, were anachronistic and belonged to a different time, including skinny jeans and modern sneakers. This was partially made up for with the notable work done in terms of color scheme by putting Montagues in blue and Capulets in red; this helped distinguish characters and create an effect that visually showed the division between the two houses. The ensemble and actors made great use of the house in addition to the stage; if the scene called for it, characters would enter through the walkways in the auditorium, successfully adding texture and variation to the performance.
A stand-out performance of the show was Rosemary Paulson as Mercutio. Her stage presence backed by her movement and demeanor created an amusing as well as powerful character. She played a male role, but pulled it off with ease. Making good use of props like a bottle opener or trash can, she made scenes dynamic and full of energy. Paulson also proved to know the dialogue and text of the show incredibly well, as her comedic timing was impeccable, and dramatic moments believable. As a supporting actress, Rosemary Paulson helped the performance come to life and was a highlight performer in the show.
O'Connell performed a classic for the ages. Unfortunately, sometimes the microphone cues were late, but the actors continued to perform with grace. Additionally, often actors forgot that microphones do not always turn off right when they get backstage, and some lines that were unintended to be heard by an audience were in fact heard. At times lines or moments were rushed, which added to slight confusion as audience members missed certain points, but the overall flow of the performance was smooth. This show offered a new take on Romeo and Juliet with the clever time-period shift, while simultaneously staying true to a great work of literature.
H-B Woodlawn Secondary School
"Two households, both alike in dignity, in New York City where we lay our scene," the chorus proclaims. Bishop O'Connell's production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was an ambitious attempt at performing the classic love story. As the tragedy unfolded, the actors showed a brave commitment to the text as well as the production and managed to capture the show's essence through technical elements.
In the beginning, the stage is set in darkness, with the chorus reciting the oh so famous introduction monologue, in contrast to the usual solo voice. The use of flashlights and the sequenced switching on and off was a creative start to open the show. The lighting throughout the play was symbolic and complicated, complementing the somewhat simplistic set.
As the stage lights come up and the plot begins to unfold, the audience sees the 1940s set and costumes come into play (no pun intended). West Side Story vibes were not lacking in this production. Props such as the glass coke bottles were a great touch to add to the mid-twentieth century NYC feel. The women's costumes clearly matched the characters and the decade, paying attention to the dresses, hair and even jewelry. The men's costumes were a bit more ambiguous, understandably so with many pants roles and shortage of availability of accurate period garments. Along with that, it was impressive that many actresses were in wigs instead of tucking hair into a cap or having the audience suspend their disbelief. A shining (literally and figuratively) moment in the show is when the friar entered with a bald cap on. It was so fitting and worked incredibly well with the character.
On to the performances! First, it's necessary to applaud the actors and director for taking on such a challenging script and language! Though there were some debatable cuts of iconic scenes, the transitions were seamless and the emblematic aspects were not lost. A breath of fresh air was the performance or Mercutio (Rosemary Paulson). She did an excellent job varying the delivery of her lines, wasn't too feminine but didn't try too hard to seem manly. The chemistry between the star-crossed lovers was not the love-struck, soul-mate kind one associates with the play. It seemed like more of an excuse to get away from home in a fit of teen angst rather than true love. On the contrary, the friendship bond between all of Romeo's friends appeared real and would hold more water than the bonds of lust. Another particularly energetic character was Lord Capulet (Andrew Oliveros). His enormous stage presence really kept the audience engaged.
Overall, a commendable effort put forth by Bishop O'Connell, for this production is not one I will forget!