The Delaware Shakespeare Community Tour returns this autumn with a touching performance of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare’s classic tale of teenage love gone horribly wrong.
Community Tour productions play in non-theatrical settings such as multipurpose rooms, homeless shelters and gymnasiums. The production values are scaled for those spaces with live music, minimal sets and whatever lighting is available. In this way, the tour exposes live theater to many people who’ve never experienced it.
Producing Artistic Director David Stradley looks for spaces that can hold a seated audience between 40 and 120 people in a four-sided arrangement. Stradley says that the audience will “…never feel the power of Shakespeare’s vital romantic tragedy more immediately than in our Community Tour production, where every audience member is within ten feet of the performers.”
Stradley stressed that Delaware Shakespeare searches for communities which may be underserved by the arts and whose residents might find difficulty traveling to Rockwood Park for its annual Summer Festival. The Community Tour performs for very diverse audiences and the cast reflects that diversity. African-American actor Wilfredo (Freddy) Amill plays Romeo opposite Argentine Sol Madariaga as Juliet. The two have real chemistry as “star-cross’d lovers” whose feuding families make their budding romance taboo.
Romeo and Juliet is a well-known tale of two dreamers awakening to love in a world trying to tear them apart. Director Lindsay Smiling has instructed his cast to be passionate and physically show their feelings, while speaking Shakespeare’s famous words. He has extracted stellar performances from all the actors without them appearing to overstep their roles.
The excellent Cameron DelGrosso plays a spirited Mercutio – riding a crest of bawdy independence until his best friend Romeo settles him down with tales of his budding love. DelGrosso expertly shows that fraternal loyalty and elan are imbued in Mercutio.
Tai Verley also shone as the wise, but dutiful, Nurse to Juliet. Verley was stern when required, but ultimately loving and devoted to her charge.
As previously mentioned, Amill and Madariaga display tenderness toward each other while showing resolve to make their future together a reality. Both are easy to watch and place the audience quickly on their side – the side of true love.
The multiple fight scenes were well choreographed (Jacqueline Holloway) on the small set with only two pieces of scenery. The audience felt right on top of the pithy swordplay. In the same vein, the dance during the party at the house of the Capulets made it feel like the stage was a bigger space than it was. Both were clever illusions.
Cassandra Alexander, Newton Buchanan, J Hernandez, and Maria Konstantinidis round out the top-notch cast, who often play multiple roles.
The Community Tour of Romeo and Juliet takes place in venues throughout Delaware from October 23 through November 17. (Performances at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Sussex Correctional Institution and Ferris School are not open to the public.)
“A thousand times good night!”