The many works of William Shakespeare were never meant to be read sitting down in a classroom. Shakespeare would have dreaded the idea of high school students sitting in desks, silently reading Romeo and Juliet. He wanted his work to come alive. Britches and Hose Theatre Company, performing at the 1st Stage Theater in Tyson’s Corner, does just that. The whole company comes together to bring Romeo and Juliet’s tragic love story to life and they do it with equal parts sorrow and humor.
Director Stephanie Ramsey does an amazing job of embracing the true meaning behind the words written hundreds of years ago. She takes heart in the fact that Shakespeare was meant to be performed, she takes from the Bard his words and makes them interesting and relevant to all people who have ever fallen in love at first sight, or to any person who has ever made fun of someone who falls in love at first sight. As the show goes on, it is obvious how much fun Ramsey and her cast has had bringing this show to life. Though, obviously this tale is one of tragedy, the first act of the show is set up with so much humor that the audience is in stitches, not at all realizing that the language is antiquated. Everyone is instantly brought into this Renaissance world and automatically feels a connection to every character in the show.
The costumes created by Mari Davis show a unique sense of duality. The actors are garbed in modern clothes with Renaissance flair, helping the audience to feel a quick connection to these people. Though, these actors are speaking in an old-fashioned language their story is timeless. By creating costumes that connect the old with the new the audience feels a connection with these characters. There is never a second when the audience feels alienated by any part of the story, for they are brought into this world quickly and by the end are actually sad to leave it.
The set is in a minimalist fashion that never pulls focus from the characters’ sad tale. Lighting Designers Dan Clark and Leandra Lynn do an amazing job of creating an ambience of romance and misery depending on the need.
Fight Choreographer Steve Schrader does an incredible job of using the stage to its full potential. His ability to have the characters move and fight, with multiple swords and daggers and sometimes their fists, around the stage is nothing short of beautiful. Altogether the crew creates their very own Verona, Italy in this beautifully created show right here in Virginia.
While the crew has does an amazing job, the cast equally shows off their amazing ability to make the audience feel for all characters in this show. Lorenzo Soto’s Romeo is so dopey and amusing that he’ll remind you of your best friend who falls in love too easily, but that you’ll want to protect with your life.
Walking out of the theater, these words were uttered by an audience member “that is the first time I have ever liked Romeo,” and that sentiment is something that will probably be shared by every audience member. This is not the Romeo who whines and pines, this is the Romeo who loves and is loved, who is sweet and sentimental, and uses his physical humor in a way that complements the words he is uttering.
Soto’s Romeo is lucky to be paired with Anna Coughlan’s Juliet. Coughlan plays Juliet the way you imagine Shakespeare would have wanted his Juliet to be. She is flirty and fun and exceptionally likable. She, like her Romeo, is someone the audience immediately cares for.
The ensemble cast is wonderfully comprised of some hilarious and creative actors, such as Dan Clark’s Tybalt, who is scary in his intensity; Dave Joria’s Mercutio, whose jovial air keeps the show moving at a quick pace; Arielle Seidman’s Benvolio, who is able to pull off being the voice of reason and the butt of a joke in easy succession; Connie Ramsey’s Nurse, who delivers all lines with a sarcasm that is creative and cruel and makes this funny character all the more hilarious; Daniel Rinehart’s Father Laurence, moves the story forward by being sensible and sad and driven to help these young lovers. Every other actor in the show does a wonderful job as well of bringing this masterful work to life.
So no, this will not feel at all like reading Shakespeare in school. It’ll be fun.
Running Time: Two hours and 50 minutes, with a 15 minute intermission.
Romeo and Juliet plays at Britches and Hose Theatre Company performing at 1st Stage-1524 Spring Hill Road, in Tysons, VA, in the Spring Hill Business Center. Performances are tonight at 8:00 PM and tomorrow, July 16th at 2:00 and 8:00 PM. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students/military/seniors with ID. (Cash or check only, please).