Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Violent Delights and Violent Ends:
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Quintessence Theatre Group
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Cameron's review of Antigone and Rebecca's review of Equivocation


Josh Carpenter, Connor Hammond, and Emiley Kiser
Photo by Shawn May
Romeo and Juliet is the iconic tale of two teenagers who fall passionately in love at first sight. The young lovers secretly marry even though their families are arch rivals with a history of violent conflict. Before they can go public with their nuptials, Romeo gets involved in a brawl that leaves his kinsman dead and Juliet's cousin murdered. Romeo is banished from the city and Juliet's parents unwittingly decide on a quick wedding for their only daughter. The couple's plan to reunite is a spectacular failure and the tale ends with a pile of corpses.

Quintessence Theatre Group and director Alexander Burns offer an innovative look at this tale of tragic love. Intuitive choreography, strong sound design, a dynamic cast, and the intricately coordinated layering of scenes and dialogue make this a Romeo and Juliet to remember.

Kaki Burns' choreography feels natural and the characters can travel in and out of each other's orbit like celestial bodies. Composer and sound designer Steven Cahill's bold effects add vigor to the production. Gun shots and thumping bass lines pull the audience in and shake things up, pounding beats create a late night party, and a few well placed chords add drama and suspense.

Romeo (Connor Hammond) and Juliet (Emiley Kiser) both make convincing teenagers, giving their dialogue a credible enthusiasm. Hammond's spirited performance is great fun to watch. Kiser's charming energy makes her a remarkably sympathetic Juliet and she looks appropriately like a beaming bat mitzvah girl at the Capulets' party. The pair has a sparkling chemistry.

E. Ashley Izard plays Juliet's nurse with earthy good humor and impeccable comic timing. Izard successfully mines the text for every funny line, sigh, and sideways glance. Josh Carpenter brings an exquisite sense of quiet gravity to the role of Friar Laurence. As a matter of fact, there are no weak links in this ensemble production; even characters who deliver only a handful of lines are thoughtfully fleshed out.

The composite sequences—in which the dialogue from two or three different scenes are layered together—are a highlight of the production. These sequences allow the actors to interact with each other in powerful and unexpected ways. The overlapping lines highlight parallels in the language, revealing patterns in the syntax, diction and music of Shakespeare's poetry. Running simultaneous parallel scenes quickens the tempo of the entire play. The integrated scenes even add clarity to the dialogue by immediately illustrating the impact that actions in one scene have on the characters in subsequent scenes.

The Quintessence Theatre Group's Romeo and Juliet runs through November 7, 2015, at The Sedgwick Theater 7137 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets and other information, visit www.QuintessenceTheatre.org or call 215-987-4450.

The Cast:
Alan Brincks (Mercutio/Prince)
Josh Carpenter(Friar Laurence/Tybalt)
Sean Close (Paris)
Connor Hammond (Romeo)
Anita Holland (Lady Capulet/Lady Montague)
Gregory Isaac (Capulet/Peter)
E Ashley Izard (Nurse)
Emiley Kiser (Juliet)
Jahzeer Terrell (Benvolio/Balthazar )

The Crew:
Alexander Burns (Director And Set Designer)
David Sexton (Lighting Designer)
Jane Casanave (Costume Designer)
Ian Rose (Fight Director)
Steven Cahill (Composer/Sound Design)
Kaki Burns (Choreography)


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