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Romeo
and Juliet

January 1

November 21, 2010

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by William Shakespeare
directed by Gale Edwards

Critical Acclaim


“Highly recommended—Romeo and Juliet takes on a hip, modern tone. The battle lines are set from the start in the thunderously physical, youthfully energetic production of Romeo and Juliet devised for Chicago Shakespeare Theater by Australian director Gale Edwards. The young lovers are well-matched. And there is a perfectly believable chemistry between the boyish, lovesick Romeo (Jeff Lillico, whose innate sweetness flips into scary ferocity at a crucial moment) and his instant flame, the strong-willed, not-quite-14-year-old Juliet (a fresh-faced, consistently natural Joy Farmer-Clary).”


“This fast-paced, contemporary, expansive, edgy, testosterone-filled affair has plenty of zip and life—and the kind of energetic chutzpah that will ensure that the audience keeps its collective eye glued to the stage. The show also has some exciting and smartly counterintuitive readings of familiar scenes.”


“Aussie director Edwards signals early on that her take on the teen-romance tragedy will be rousing. Interspersed with sumptuously staged tableaus, such as the Capulet party where Romeo (Jeff Lillico) switches his affections from Rosaline to Juliet (Joy Farmer-Clary) or the stirring last moments of Mercutio (Ariel Shafir), exquisite supporting performances wring out the rich intimations of Shakespeare's text.”


“Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Romeo and Juliet is a classic contemporary masterpiece. The excitement and emotion that surround a performance climb higher than any balcony. The two-and-half-hour production dashes by quickly. Even before any of the actors and actresses appear on stage, there's an electricity of tension and temptation thanks to the amazing production team's sensational set. Lillico gives a warm and romantic characterization of a Romeo with an uncertain edge. It's an ideal contrast to Farmer-Clary's forlorn Juliet. Especially thrilling and convincing are the fight scenes, as created by fight director Rick Sordelet.”


“This production is a long time coming. Set in modern dress but faithful to the Bard's poetic language, the play drives home the physicality of the story, particularly as its youthful combatants confront one another with fists, swords and daggers. Edwards' superior cast dazzles in scene after scene. Especially noteworthy is the versatile set designed by Brian Sidney Bembridge. No matter how many times one sees this iconic work, it never fails to deliver an emotional punch. And that's the case with a riveting new production staged by Australian director Gale Edwards at Chicago Shakespeare.”


“The staging tells the story with clarity and propulsive force. Director Gale Edwards has injected some original insights into the characterizations that freshen up this most familiar story, and the modern dress setting contributes mightily to the engrossing tense and edgy atmosphere. The swordfights choreographed by Rick Sordelet are stunning in their ferocity. I've never seen the animosity between the two families displayed with more ferocity. This is an earthy reading of the play that should go over big with younger audiences.”


“This is an exceptional production. Edwards lets the Bard's text work its wonders; her staging brings its base, more visceral elements to fullest life in its young frolickers. Brian Sidney Bembridge's set is astonishing, the back stage opened up to create a long, deep hangar-like space, which functions as all locations in the play. It is neither modern nor classical as befitting the production's overall design, including Ana Kuzmanic's wardrobe, which seems to master that balancing act of being of no time and all time at once. Like the story itself.”


“The cast is strong. Farmer-Clary's Juliet seared our hearts. Ora Jones has a formidable stage presence and is a brilliant comedienne. David Lively gives Friar Lawrence great heart, and you can feel the summer heat as the young toughs from the warring houses clash on the streets of Verona. Congratulations to Rick Sordelet, the fight director, for some of the most intense sword fighting scenes in live theater. His choreography is fast and furious and the young men performed it flawlessly. The two-and-a-half hour production flew by and received a standing ovation from the opening night crowd.”


“This production should not be missed. CST's production of the tragedy is fresh, and vibrant. Kudos to scenic designer Brian Sidney Bembridge who has created a bleak urban street flanked by buildings whose entrances are noisy, metal roller doors which clatter with shattering sounds that punctuate key moments. Praise must also go to costume designer Ana Kuzmanic and her clever repetition of shades of brown and scarlet in various combinations—adding a treat for the eye as well as the expected treat for the ear provided by Shakespeare's famous lines. ”


“Star-crossed for success, not sorrow, this production is a Romeo and Juliet to set the standard for the show for decades to come. You have not seen this play until you've seen this production. Australian director Gale Edwards mines this script for gold, silver and diamonds as her visceral, electric, testosterone-charged, galvanic production tears down the thrust stage.”


“When it comes to Shakespeare, there is none better than the award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Each production is a masterpiece and Romeo and Juliet is just that. The story of youthful romance explodes on this stage. Sheer perfection. Edwards has brought her production to a more modern look, so that even those who have seen it countless times, never bore or anticipate what happens next. The fight scenes are marvelous. The lighting, the costumes and the original music and sound are the icing on a cake that is perfect. If you have never witnessed a Shakespeare production on Navy Pier, make this a "to do" on your "bucket list." You won’t be sorry! ”


“A must see, but not for the reasons people often associate with this well-known play. This production is not merely a retelling of the teenage love story you may remember from high school English. Instead, Director Gale Edwards peels away the layers to reveal all of the complexity and richness of Shakespeare's famous story. Under Edwards's guidance, this play moves beyond being a poignant romance to the realm of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies. If you want to see an insightful, thought-provoking interpretation of Shakespeare's most famous love story, you will be richly rewarded.”


“CST breathes new life into Shakespeare's tragic lovers. Gale Edwards' production of Romeo and Juliet proves that no matter how many times Shakespeare's plays are performed, they can still be fresh and relevant if the cast has the technique to make the language thrive in a modern audience's ear. The posters for Romeo and Juliet ask, "How long will it take for you to fall in love with Shakespeare?" Judging from the quality of Gale Edwards' fast-paced, emotionally-rich production, it should take no time at all.”

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