A robust audience greeted opening night of Patrick Schmitz’s The Comedy of Romeo & Juliet: Kinda Sorta. The latest in a long line of productions of Shakespeare parody briskly rolls through the stage of the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall in a three-hour stretch lightly entertaining enough to feel like a half hour sitcom. Though there may be a few slightly dated pop cultural references lingering about various corners of the script, the light comic treatment of Shakespeare’s classic romance is still hugely enjoyable several years after its original staging.
Writer/Director Patrick Schmitz juggles a clever array of humor surrounding the central comedy of a couple of kids who have fallen deeply in love having only just met for the first time. The fourth wall isn’t broken so much as casually disregarded in a highly self-referential script. The play’s awareness of itself helps cut the tragedy of a couple of young lovers who kill themselves. It’s a very sharp strategy that works once more in the show’s latest staging.
As Romeo, Josh Decker is at his best when he is over-the-top passionate whether tragically pining after fair Rosaline or lamenting a whole host of problems in his romance with Juliet.
Schmitz hands quite a challenge to the actress playing Juliet. His treatment of the female lead can come across a bit emotionally flat, bratty and petty in places. (It’s all part of the comedy.) And while it works for the comedy, it keeps her at an emotional distance from everything. Kara Minelli does am admirable job in keeping the character engaging throughout the twists and turns of the story. Minelli’s brash confidence in the role keeps Juliet from becoming a vapidly tedious title character.
There is great talent around the edges of the ensemble. Laura Holterman has a cunning mastery of Schmitz’s humor in the role of Juliet’s mother Lady Capulet. Holterman has a sharply droll sense of authority about her as matriarch that serves the comedy well.
Beth Lewinski is deftly comic in almost anything. (She’s just...really good. Trust me.) Here she’s playing Juliet’s Nurse with a heroic level of patience that becomes a brilliant kind of comedy in its own right.
Hayley San Fillippo has brilliantly tempered comic instincts as Benvolio. Part of the joke of the role in Schmitz’s script is that everyone recognizes her as a woman. Benvolio has to constantly remind everyone she’s actually a man being played by a woman. It’s kind of a dated joke given the number of women that have been playing male roles in local Shakespeare lately, but San Fillippo has a very charmingly earnest approach to the role that makes it work beautifully. Intended or not, San Fillippo has that cleverly endearing ”woman-putting-up-with-the-guys-in-order-to-be-one-of-the-guys” dynamic going on that really illuminates the role.
As typically occurs in any large ensemble show like this, there are so many talented actors in and around the edges of the production who feel underused. Erik Koconis is comically creepy as Count Paris: a grown man who wants to marry the 13 year-old Juliet. Michelle White makes a strong impression as an appealingly salty Apothecary/homeless woman. Chris Goode is childishly aggressive as hot-tempered Tybalt. Nic Onorato draws on an entirely different kind of comic childishness as would-be aggressor Sampson. Rollie Cafaro draws on substantial sketch/improv experience to conjure a very wise Friar Lawrence. For light comedy, Schmitz’s script has a lot going on in every angle of the ensemble. Directing his own script, Schmitz knows exactly what he needs out of his cast to make even the weirdest bits of humor work.
Schmitz 'n Giggles’ The Comedy of Romeo and Juliet: Kinda Sorta runs for one weekend only through this Sunday, August 10th. (Tonight and tomorrow night. Both shows start at 7:30 pm) For more information, visit the show’s Facebook Events Page.
For ticket reservations...ugh...you’ll have to deal with Ticketmonster. For the love of all that is good, just go early and stand in line to buy tickets in person. It’s a nice night out. There’s a river nearby and everything. Seriously: just go early and wait in line at the Box Office and save yourself the surcharge.