Nothing says summer theatre in Chicago quite like seeing some Shakespeare in the parks. Shakespeare All-Stars oblige this time-honored tradition with a lean, accessible production of Romeo and Juliet. Minimally staged at a park smartly chosen for its incidental acoustics--buildings surround three sides of Gross Park, one of two performance locations--director Sam Cheeseman’s production condenses the five act tragedy into 75-minutes, an ideal runtime for an outdoor event.
Romeo and Juliet As Current as Ever
The heart of this production rests in the tale of two star-crossed lovers. Romeo (P. Tyler Nielsen) falls for Juliet (LaKecia Harris) at a masked ball, and all seems promising until he learns of her parentage. Juliet’s family, the Capulets, are bitter enemies of anyone claiming lineage to the Montagues. Despite this conflict, the lovers marry in secret, a decision with tragic repercussions. At a time when politics and divisiveness seem to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, the themes of Romeo and Juliet ring as clearly as ever. Cheesman’s ensemble of eight gamely switch between characters throughout the piece to portray different members of each family, although this reviewer couldn’t help but notice the scope of the feud feeling a bit slighter with a smaller cast.
Shakespeare All-Stars Brings Shakespeare to Life
When it comes to Shakespeare’s language, the actors in Shakespeare All-Stars’ production do wonderfully. As Romeo, Nielsen captures a charm and eagerness which is complemented by the youth and growing assertiveness of Harris’ Juliet. Other standouts include Julian Stroop as Mercutio and Arin Mulvaney as Nurse. Stroop’s “Queen Mab” speech is a particularly strong moment in this production. Adding to Romeo and Juliet’s engaging staging are several well-choreographed sword fights by Emily Shimskey and live music performed by Joe Sergio as the Friar. Each of these elements heightens the stakes and adds emotional color to the piece, filling out the story in the absence of a set. Overall, for families enthusiastic about the Bard and Chicago’s warm weather, Romeo and Juliet is a worthwhile event to attend.
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Juliet LaKecia Harris
Romeo P. Tyler Nielsen
Chorus/Friar/Prince Joe Sergio
Mercutio/Abraham/Friar John Julian Stroop
Capulet/Gregory Jessie Ellingsen
Nurse/Sampson Arin Mulvaney
Benvolio Grace Hutchings
Tybalt/Servant/Apothecary Spencer Althoff
Director Sam Cheeseman
Assistant Director Bianca Phipps
Stage Manager Jessica Woodburn
Marketing Coordinator Jill Matel
Music Joe Sergio
Fight Choreography Emily Shimskey
Design Team Arin Mulvaney & Jessica Woodburn
Graphic Design Dan Osborn
Romeo & Juliet plays at Touhy Park June 16, 17, 30 and July 1, and at Gross Park June 23 & 24
Thru July 1st
Saturdays at 5 pm & Sundays at 2 pm
Photos courtesy of Shakespeare all-stars
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