By Nina Nesseth
Thorneloe Theatre Arts’ fall mainstage production will capture audiences with an unconventional approach to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Joe Calarco’s Shakespeare’s R & J takes us into The Bard’s most popular tragedy through the experiences of four male students at a Catholic boarding school in the 1960’s. The boys discover a copy of Romeo and Juliet and one night decide to perform it amongst themselves. It is a poignant, captivating coming-of-age story intertwined with the familiar tale of Romeo and Juliet.
“If you’ve seen Romeo and Juliet ten times and know it inside and out, you still haven’t seen it as it is in this show,” says actor Callam Rodya, who plays Mercutio, Friar Laurence, and Lady Capulet. Rodya was last seen as Theseus/Oberon in Thorneloe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and appeared in Stolen Ceiling Theatre Company’s Under Milk Wood.
Much of the play’s dialogue is taken directly from Shakespeare; however, this dialogue is spoken by characters that are all at once fictional lovers and tragic figures, as well as teenaged boys.
“It’s two stories rather than one,” explains Marc Bosse. “It’s the story of Romeo and Juliet – the two lovers – that people have gotten to know over the years, but there’s also the story behind that of the students, of their connections.” Bosse, who was last seen as Lysander in Thorneloe’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Curio and Fabian in Summer Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, plays Nurse and Tybalt.
In classic Elizabethan fashion, the all-male cast must explore female roles, but they make it clear that this is not done for laughs.
“I learned a lot about playing a female, and playing not to make people laugh, as I’ve done in the past,” says Tom Garvin, who plays Juliet. “The stereotypical guy in a wig — it’s not like that at all. There are no costumes here, and I think that’s what’s going to fascinate people, rather than just make them laugh.” Garvin last played Dionysus in Thorneloe Classic’s The Frogs as well as appearing in the Sudbury Theatre Centre’s Let’s Play Munsch.
The production is driven by its characters and keeps to a minimalist set, simple costumes and props. A 12-foot long piece of solid red fabric serves as the main prop for the show; it constantly transforms to represent not only physical objects, but serves as a connection between the four students. Thorneloe professor Jenny Hazelton lent her skills to the choreography that revolves around the cloth.
Jake McNeil – Romeo – comments that this minimalism lends a powerful draw to the performance
“I think it’s a unique piece of theatre. Although there is a lack of props and costumes, sets, I think that you’ll enjoy the fact that it leads to the very raw, very emotional, very deep place within humanity that people rarely get to see. I think that the play lends a lot of attention to the nuances between people, to the relationships that we form,” said McNeil, who appeared in the Sudbury Theatre Centre’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and was last seen on Thorneloe’s stage in The Importance of Being Earnest.
The production is directed by Thorneloe professor Dr. Ian Maclennan. The costumes are by Evelyn Davie of Stage and Street. Lighting is by Cambrian College Technical Director Ken Salah with technical theatre support by students of Cambrian College’s Technical Theatre Program. Stage manager is student Courtney Larose.
Shakespeare’s R & J runs Nov. 18 – 20 and 25-27 at Thorneloe Theatre, Laurentian University campus, at 7:30 pm. The is also a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Sunday, Nov. 21. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors; they are available at the door or by calling the Thorneloe office at 673-1730 ext. 0.