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Romeo and Juliet, Actors' Shakespeare Project
Bar Harbor
Just caught the latest ASP production at The Strand, only a few miles from my house. It wasn't a perfect production, but it was *damn* good. It's more or less in-the-round; a traditionally-shaped theater, but with a large number of auditorium seats actually *on* the stage. As is often the case with ASP, the set design was fairly minimal, and the costuming was modern, but both did their jobs just fine.

Bad points: One actor blanked on his lines in an early scene, and had to ad lib a bit to get back on course. Friar Lawrence was played with a *heavy* Spanish accent, damaging both the meter and my ability to understand what he was saying.

Good points:
* R & J were both young, pretty, and *totally* sold being in love (and comfort with the language). It's the one thing the show absolutely requires, and everything else is gravy.
* Excellent violence design, mostly knife fights, but in a variety of different styles.
* Excellent supporting performances by the Nurse, Mercutio, Tybalt, and a kick-ass female "Benvolia".
* Having "Benvolia" and Mercutio be lovers was really nifty. They didn't change any actual text to do that, just a few scenes suddenly had rather different connotations than usual.
* They actually managed to make Romeo's death scene more horrifying and heartbreaking than any other version I've seen. They had Juliet wake up *as* Romeo was delivering his final kiss, not the traditional just-afterwards. A very simple change, but hugely impactful. You see the horror fading from Romeo's eyes with his life, and Juliet's relief at being reunited quickly shade into confusion and then horror of her own. If I ever direct this show, I'm totally stealing that timing.

The show just opened, and runs through November 3rd. Highly recommended.

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That play never gets old. The shortsighted adults, the goopy kids in love, the gang violence...

It holds up.

Oh yeah, the Friar's accent. That bothered me too. A very random choice, with no upside that I could see. I only got to watch the last few scenes in tech rehearsal, but had the same overall positive impression as you. Jason Bowen is always solid.

Note that they sort of stole that death-scene timing from Baz Luhrman (who almost certainly stole it from some other stage production).

I just realized that you are not on my email list, so you may or may not have seen my R&J launch announcements. My GN adaptation came out a few weeks ago. Supposedly ASP was arranging with Porter Sq Books to sell it at the concession stand -- did you happen to notice if it was there?

Huh, I didn't remember that from the Luhrman. At any rate, it was done brilliantly.

I saw your R&J listed in Diamond Previews, and picked it up via Amazon. Quite liked it.

There was a pile of your graphic novels prominently visible on the merchandise table, and many people were looking at it with interest. I overheard one patron asking if he could buy it, but they weren't actually selling that stuff until intermission.

In hindsight, one upside to making Fr. Lawrence so Spanish was to increase the amount of diversity in the setting, so that people are less likely to fall into the simplistic racism metaphor that R&J has often been saddled with. [Much as you yourself did in your own recent adaptation, by adding more ethnicities.] Personally, I don't feel that it was worth the downsides in this case.

But then, I'm not sure I've *ever* seen a play that I didn't have some disagreements with. (Including the one I directed! It's so difficult to get actors to do the Right Thing :-).

Friar Laurence

Just a quick note: the actor playing Friar Laurence (Antonio Ocampo-Guzman) is a native of Colombia, and he is not using an accent; this is his normal speaking voice.

I suspected something like that might be the case. But the company still chose to cast him, so it counts as an artistic choice and is validly subject to criticism. Possibly constrained by a limited pool of potential actors, possibly affected by outside factors such as a strong desire for a multi-cultural cast, but still a choice.

Moreover, they chose to play up the accent more than strictly necessary, with all the added Spanish religious interjections, and the changed meter of the play's final word. On reflection, that's probably a better approach than its opposite (asking an actor who isn't capable of doing so to shed his native accent), but it didn't work for me.

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