Romeo and Juliet | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Romeo and Juliet 

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Romeo and Juliet, Chicspeare Production Company, at Ebenezer Lutheran Church auditorium. This troupe operates without a director, as Shakespeare's Globe trotters might have done, and at times the lack of a controlling vision takes a toll--in too brisk a pace and too few moments that sink in. (Given the assembly-hall acoustics, the actors could also use better voice projection and diction.) But no star-crossed love tragedy ever rewarded youth, energy, and beauty more. Here it seems the real tragedy is that the two lovers--Jennifer Willison, as hauntingly lovely as Olivia Hussey in Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film, and Jonathan Pereira, a young Ben Affleck--will never pass on their looks to their kids. Their deaths are regrettable too.

This awesomely attractive duo is otherwise your basic American teenage couple, complete with suicide pact: until they die, nothing seems to get them down. Of course the love that Romeo and Juliet fight to preserve forces them to grow up fast, making them much more serious and responsible than the feuding adults who threaten their joy. Willison and Pereira need to rise to that occasion.

Still, this romance is all but actor-proof. In the hands of more concentrated performers--Erik Hellman as pensive Friar Lawrence, Brandon Eells as splenetic Capulet, and Ann James as the fussbudget nurse--Shakespeare's gift of truth bears fruit. Jason Kaplan's fight choreography clashes well with everything.

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