A Review of Lantern Theater Company's "Romeo and Juliet"

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Kevin Meehan as Benvolio, Sean Lally as Romeo, and Jake Blouch as Tybalt in Lantern Theater Company's production of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Mark Garvin.
Kevin Meehan as Benvolio, Sean Lally as Romeo, and Jake Blouch as Tybalt in Lantern Theater Company's production of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Mark Garvin.

Last week I went to see Lantern Theater Company‘s “Romeo and Juliet” with my colleague and fellow theater enthusiast, Laura Mitchell. I had originally intended to write this review myself, but after discussing the play rather extensively with Ms. Mitchell afterward, I realized that Shakespeare was really more her area of expertise than mine, and she had particularly strong feelings about this production. Below is her review of the play, which is far more eloquent and insightful that anything I could have said.

I’ll let Laura Mitchell take it from here…

“As an English major and a student of Shakespeare I think I have seen just about every version of Romeo and Juliet that has ever been made. From the good, to the bad, to the unusual, Shakespeare’s arguably most famous play is so often done that it would be all too easy for a new production to fade into the background. That being said, this latest offering by the Lantern Theater Company has thoroughly succeeded at making its own mark in the pantheon of Shakespearean performance.

There is something about director Charles McMahon’s production that breathes new life into the age-old tale of the star-crossed lovers, and perhaps that’s just it—the union of the old and the new. The stage and the players are classically set: balcony? Check. Doublets and farthingales? Check. From there, however, the performance takes a turn for the, I venture to say, modern. It all-but abandons the original iambic pentameter and Elizabethan restraint in favor of a more energetic and contemporary delivery. It’s a unique approach that hits all the right comical and dramatic marks, thereby granting the audience a more fluid connection to the words, and making the show so thoroughly entertaining.

While every actor in this production, many of whom played multiple roles, was phenomenal and infinitely engrossing to watch, much of the credit for the uniqueness of the performance belongs to Sean Lally and his brilliant take on the eponymous hero, Romeo. Through all the versions of Romeo, hardly ever has he been presented with such earnestness. There is no rage in Lally’s performance, as so many incarnations of the ill-fated lover are wont to be, only a vaguely maniacal passion that I could fully believe being borne from an honest love. The direction in which Lally skillfully took the role was truly refreshing in its sincerity, and while his performance may seem unusual at first, you will soon find yourself seeing the character in a new, perhaps even more pleasing, light. In that same vein, Nicole Erb’s portrayal of Juliet was also uniquely wrought, dripping with a winning combination of girlish infatuation and a quiet, wise-beyond-her-years passion that peaks at just the right moments. There were several of Juliet’s speeches that Erb fervently delivered to an audience so rapt in attention that not a sound was heard beyond what was meant to be.

Shakespeare can be stubborn and dry (I’ll admit it) if not done properly, but McMahon and the Lantern Theater Company’s brilliant cast have deftly showed how to take risks with this text and succeed in every way.”

The show runs now through April 8, 2011. Tickets are $20 – $36 and are available online at lanterntheater.org or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. Lantern Theater Company has $10 student rush tickets 10 minutes before curtain with valid ID (these tickets are cash only). There are additional discounts are available for seniors and groups of 10 or more. Lantern Theater Company is located at St. Stephen’s Theater, at 10th & Ludlow Streets in Center City Philadelphia.

Thanks again to the Lantern Theater Company for extending an invitation to Ms. Mitchell and myself! We look forward to the rest of their 2011/2012 season!

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