Romeo and Juliet | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Romeo and Juliet, Tripaway Theatre, in Lincoln Park. Performing Shakespeare under the stars is a popular approach in summer, but what's a small-budget company to do when their performance space is a grassy grove far from electric lighting, artificial amplification, and man-made scenery? Well, Tripaway Theatre in its production of Romeo and Juliet illuminates the stage with patio lanterns, stadium torches, and 17th-century-style candle-and-mirror footlights. The actors are uniformly costumed in white shirts and black trousers--a practical way to deal with multiple casting and with this production's arboreal balcony scene, which has Juliet straddling the fork of a wind-splintered tree. Moreover, director Karin Shook has instructed her thespians to play their roles with broad characterizations and inflections and plenty of vigorous physical action.

Tripaway is certainly to be commended for its original treatment of a classic, but playgoers not already conversant with Shakespeare's text may be puzzled by Todd Guill's buffoonish, hyperemotional Capulet, Julie Partyka's frequently inaudible nurse, and the cast's general tendency to become slower and subtler as their visibility decreases. Tripaway's expertise is manifest in such features as the intricate swordplay devised by Richard Gilbert and David Gene Gregory. But a more sophisticated forum will be necessary if their work is to be viewed as anything more than a dancing-dog novelty.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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