Review by Terry Gaisin
Stories of Ill-fated paramours are ageless. From Ovid, to Sweden’s “Hagbard & Signy” in the 14 hundreds, to Shakespeare circa 1595; and De Vega’s The Capulets and the Montagues 1½ decades later; such tales go on and on. Bernstein took one such and made zillions by putting it to music. The Russians do it by following the basic ‘he loves her; she loves another; and no one gets anyone…but they take 800 pages before reaching ‘The End’.
Photo courtesy of Jim Smagata UTM
Theatre Erindale starts its 21st season with De Vega’s iteration. Same story but with a twist…’all’s well that ends well’ (apologies to Willy S.). A masterful directorial endeavour by Mimi Mekler equilibrates both aspects fairly so there is neither dramatic nor comedic emphasis. From the opening gala dance chez Casa Capulet, back-grounded by Pepe Romero’s guitar- performing Joaquin Rodrigo’s ‘Andalusia’ (note: buy the CD!), and the party-crashing by Romeo and company; the pace never falters. Mekler’s cast seems comfortable with the meter of De Vega’s prose (see note below). Her incorporation of some current vernacular not only adds a dimension to the progress on stage, it keeps the audience focused and alert. Result: – a highly entertaining & fascinating instance of theatre.
The large cast drawn from UTM’s graduating year suffers from predominance of females. So, Mekler uses women in many male roles. As a change-of-pace she has Zachary Zulauf as the busty & sensual ‘Tamar’ whose take evokes the famous “Honey Bun” aria from South Pacific! The two feuding fathers; Aaron Schaefer & Angelica Appelman are diametrically opposite in their portrayals. Schaefer almost understates his animosity but is still flexible to entreaties from his brother. Appelman’s Montague Sr. is way too wizened and Fagin-ish by comparison. She’s much more convincing as Belardo’s son – ‘Loreto’! Tomas Ketchum’s ‘Tybalt (the brother) is a standout utilizing posture and deportment to reflect his aristocratic demeanor.
The two protagonists, Romeo, played by Samuel Turner & his Juliet Hannah Ehman both meet the criteria for leading characterizations. Handsome, (pretty), debonair (ingenuous), brave (timid) and manipulative (manipulative!)- both actors are credible. Turner has vocal projection down pat, while Ehman utilizes an amazingly mobile face to underscore her lines. The lady probably has a sure-fire future in musical comedy as well as drama. Check out those eye asides. Her “‘my body may be a Capulet, but in my soul I’ m a Montague;’ is dramatically touching.
There are some notable supporting roles. Dorothea is portrayed by Olivia Orton, and Jovan Kocic is her brother Octavio; cousin & suitor to Juliet. The essential role of ‘Celia’ is played by Brittany Miranda and she has the servant cum manipulator/friend aspect almost down pat. That particular talent belongs to Jaime Lujan whose Marin continually scene-steals with delightful little shticks such as pickpocketing, munching, and audience interactions. Romeo’s BFF Benvolio is interpreted by Courtney Keir and she’s major in filling out her (his) mandate to try and rein-in our hero. Another notable contribution comes from Roberto Esteves whose reading borders on hamminess but never crosses that line. He too, uses his face to underscore emotions.
The stage is utilitarian rather than detailed, no doubt so that designer Patrick Young can modify it for future presentations. Joanne Massingham’s costumes are diametrically opposite – meticulous and elaborate especially Eilish Waller’s ‘Princess’ wearing a Seville dancer’s black outfit that evokes Flamenco record covers.
“The Capulets and the Montagues” will be battling it out at Theatre Erindale until Nov. 2nd. The next-door construction is now finished so the hustings have all been removed. Watch out for the guard-deers sauntering all around. 905-569-4369