The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts February 10, 2006

Romeo & Juliet Enlivens Intimate Stage
Comedic Approach Enriches Classic Tragedy
Books are a girl’s best friend: Juliet (junior Taylor Bibat) escapes the relentless marital proddings of her mother in a good book.

On Tuesday night, under the direction of Professor of Theater Paul Moser, William Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet opened in a transformed Hall Auditorium. With the audience sitting on the stage, an impromptu black-box theater had been created, providing everyone with a front-row seat to the tragedy.

This intimacy, combined with a spare set and ambiguous costumes, put the focus squarely where it belonged: on text and character.

“I’ve tried to make the play flow from the text itself,” Moser explained. “I tried to study the script carefully and boil it down to its basic motifs and metaphors.” In Moser’s view, two interlocking coming-of-age stories lie at the heart of Romeo and Juliet.

Juniors Adam Kander and Taylor Bibat, who brilliantly played the title characters, took this to heart and acted their parts accordingly. In Kander’s portrayal, the theme came through at the end of the first act when he was thrust into a duel with his newly-made cousin, followed at the start of the next act by a pathos-ridden breakdown when he learns of his banishment.

With Bibat, we saw an adolescent inconstancy very true to her character’s age. Both actors were working to depict well-developed, believable characters.

“You have to treat them as real people,” Bibat said. “You’re portraying a person. You can’t play a cliché.”

To get a better, fresher sense of their characters, the actors had to look at the play outside pf the box, not as the monumental tragedy it’s known.

“Paul wanted us to approach Romeo and Juliet as a romantic comedy, with likeable, quirky people,” Kander said, “but in this particular instance, everything goes wrong. You see what happens when the romantic comedy turns into a tragedy.”

Accordingly, the first act of the play was full of laughs. In particular, Ben Sinclair, Avery Monse, and Marielle Solan — Mercutio, Benvolio and the Nurse respectively — were comedic gems. Other standouts in the supporting cast were Zak Fishman as Lord Capulet and faculty member Matthew Wright as Friar Laurence, both of whom brought great complexity to two often overlooked characters.

Romeo and Juliet was mounted during Winter Term, which gave everyone involved the opportunity to focus entirely on the play, without distractions such as classes and homework getting in their way. The incredible amount of work they were able to put in clearly paid off in a powerful, well-polished production. Though it may be too early to say for certain, the phrase “theatrical event of the semester” seems entirely appropriate.

The play runs through the weekend, with performances at Hall Auditorium on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m.


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