Innovation meets tradition in the current production of "Romeo and Juliet" at Shakespeare in Delaware Park. This pairing may sound as star-crossed as that of a certain Montague and Capulet, but a skilled production team makes the unlikely combination work.
Though conventional in tone and appearance, the staging never condescends to cliche, thanks in part to startling cinematic script cutting by director Saul Elkin.
Elkin's cut of "Romeo and Juliet" is inventive, if not always successful. As he explains in the program notes, Elkin deliberately imitates the flowing structure of cinema, incorporating devices ranging from flashbacks to theatrical cross-cutting.
The entire play is presented in flashback. It begins not with the famous Prologue, but with a section from Act 5, Scene 3, in which Friar Laurence tells Romeo and Juliet's story to the Prince.
Elkin's staging retains a traditional Renaissance setting. Donna Massimo's vibrant, jewel-toned costumes adroitly evoke the era, especially Juliet's sumptuous gowns. In the dazzling masquerade scene, a woman wears a pair of angel wings, perhaps a wry reference to those worn by Claire Danes as Juliet in the 1996 film "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet." Massimo's spectacular designs for this scene are complemented by the graceful period dances choreographed by Tressa Gorman Crehan.
Set and properties designer Kenneth Shaw makes efficient, elegant use of the Delaware Park stage, allowing for fluid scene changes in the Elizabethan tradition. The curtained platform down center is particularly effective. This area is a small stage in itself, with three panels of green and white fabric that rise to reveal a location or lower upon a dramatic tableau.
This provides a theatrical setting for many of the play's key scenes, such as Romeo's first encounter with Juliet at the Capulets' party. The repeated use of the platform helps establish key metaphors in the play. For example, Juliet links her grave to her wedding bed, and this is made visible by using the space for Juliet's bedroom and tomb.
Several scenes overlap. Such placement clarifies the play's four-day time span, as well as illustrates the parallels between crucial moments. Occasionally the scenic interpolation feels awkward. Sometimes the shift from one scene to the other and back again prevents building momentum within an individual scene.
This was most evident in the longer cross-cuts, as when the discussion of Juliet's marriage is played against the comic business of Romeo reading the list of Capulet guests to Peter, an illiterate servant.
Everyone in the cast performs his role with conviction, though not always eloquence.
Christopher C. Young and Kristen Tripp Kelly bring dignity to the title roles, though they lack the explosive energy of adolescence.
As Capulet, Juliet's father, Richard Hummert captures the paradoxical affability and despotism of the role. Darleen Pickering Hummert is believably sympathetic and stern as the Nurse, while Derek E. Campbell brings a quiet determination to Friar Laurence. Michael Karr's Mercutio is duly bawdy, but neither he nor anyone else truly captures the comic sides of their characters.
Despite minor flaws, however, the Delaware Park production of "Romeo and Juliet" is a well-polished rendition of a beloved classic.
Romeo and Juliet
Presented by Shakespeare in Delaware Park.
Friday night in Delaware Park. Continues at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday through July 15.