Swamp Meadow Produces Sharp ‘Romeo & Juliet’
by Raymond Beltran, Motif Magazine
The opportunity to see young people take hold of the performing arts with enthusiasm always proves to be a rewarding experience. Swamp Meadow Community Theater’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet provides such an experience. The large cast tells the tale of the play’s two young title characters, forbidden to publicly realize their love on account of their warring families.
With the majority of cast members being in their teens, Swamp Meadow’s production has found unique ways to render the play relatable to a youthful cast and contemporary audience. There are dance-infused entrances to the Capulet’s party- Romeo (Zachary Gibb) performs a choreographed spin on Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible- along with other liberties. In one scene, Friar Lawrence (Andy Affleck) raps his council to Romeo, as another cast member thuds beats on a hollow box, helping him keep time. The Hip Hop inspired rendition proves an interesting way to deliver Shakespeare’s words and breaks up the lengthy run in an interesting way. So much so, the rest of the play could have easily been done in this form.
Amid the musical numbers and slapstick routines shines a smartly devised executive choice, in the way of narrative. The chorus is played by Leah Fidler, whose well-timed delivery of the plot is conveyed through the modern language of a teenager. When describing Romeo and friends’ party crashing as an attempt to go “trolling for babes,” the tone of the production becomes more clear: one that seeks to take the stuffiness out of a classic in a family-friendly way.
The runtime is lengthy, something to be expected when soaking in Shakespeare. With great satisfaction, audience members witness the houselights dim promptly at the slated start time, 7 pm. Three and a half hours later, patrons are ready to begin the journey back from Foster, Rhode Island. While this is not a chore, per se, there stand many a moment in this production which choose modern garnish over simply moving the show along. If future audience members are okay with watching a show that relies as much on contemporary adornment as it does executing the plot through character portrayal, they will find this production more than worthwhile. The cast works well within the sparse, yet versatile, set. The focus then becomes on the acting, and fine examples of such present themselves. Laura Gibb’s Lady Capulet is the definition of poise and controlled delivery in this production. Her projection is near perfect, as her genuine unravelling at the sight of her daughter, thought to be dead before her wedding. Julie Cox delivers a Juliet that hits every scripted mark, and Amanda Betchy swaps genders with great success to play Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. There is enough capability in this cast of predominately young actors to allow audience members to appreciate the production from a heterogenous standpoint, considering the varying contributions to the overall play.
Zachary Gibb’s Romeo is exceptionally well-thought-out. Capitalizing on the thread of ironic teenage undertones that saturate the production, Gibb presents a character that walks the line between dramatic youth and driven lover. He holds his character closely, choosing a micro delivery of a conflicted character, rather than a trite exhibition that can easily be extracted from the play by a less intuitive actor. Gibb’s future seems bright.
Those looking for a good-hearted and sincere approach to Shakespeare that enables a com- munity passion for performing will find satisfaction in this production.
Romeo and Juliet, Swamp Meadow Community Theatre, the Paine School Auditorium,
161 Foster Center Road, Foster. www.swampmeadow.org Runs Nov 18-20