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REVIEW: Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ smells as sweet

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Published: June 4, 2012

ISF opens with an energetic, fresh take on an old favorite.

BY DANA OLAND © 2012 Idaho Statesman

“Romeo and Juliet” is a tough play to produce, simply because everyone knows how it ends.

The payoff, then, is the journey: the progression from innocent all-consuming love — the kind you’re willing to die for — to the real the cost of that love.

Charlie Fee, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s producing artistic director, has deftly made The Bard’s greatest love story about that journey.


Photo by DKM Photography

The play’s hurdles, hubris, human failing and missteps are a reminder that love is a powerful drug.

“Romeo and Juliet” opened the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s 36th season Saturday. The production marks an energetic start to the season with ribald comedy, dynamic fight scenes by fight choreographer Ken Merckx and heart-rending tragedy.

Saturday also marked the 20th anniversary season of the Fool Squad’s Greenshow, a comical prelude that has become a festival signature.

Fee sets his “R & J” in 1920s Verona. Set designer Gage Williams has crafted a beautiful bombed-out city that serves as a physical metaphor.

As the night progresses, Rick Martin’s rich lighting in cool blues and hot amber brings the set to life. Likewise, Peter John Still’s sound design surrounds the amphitheater with bird calls and foreshadowing.

Star Moxley’s luscious and elegant costuming embraces a palette of soft grays and rich purples that binds the show together. As always with Moxley’s clothing, there are things everyone must have: Juliet’s flowing party dress and Mercutio’s military long coat.

Fee installs an act break just as Romeo and Juliet, played by Christian Durso and Betsy Mugavero, run off to marry.

That break divides the play’s comedy from tragedy and further emphasizes the turn from happy promise to dust and destruction.

Many of ISF’s mature company members play the adults: Aled Davies and elegant Laura Perrotta as the Capulets, Stitch Marker and Lynn Allison as the Montegues. David Anthony Smith is the Prince, Lynn Robert Berg is Friar Laurence and M.A. Taylor is comic servant Peter.

Mugavero is a delightful Juliet, able to reach teenage joy and passion along with great depth of feeling.

Durso brims with frustration of young love that allows him only to spout poetry until Juliet undoes him. They have a lovely chemistry.

J. Todd Adams is marvelous as Mercutio, Romeo’s testosterone- and wine-fueled friend. Laurie Brimingham is wonderfully motherly as Juliet’s Nurse. Perrotta is a cool contrast as Juliet’s mother. Dana Oland: 377-6442

Click to read more at Idaho Statesman