Rochester Civic Theatre had to make some necessary modern concessions to their production of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."
The production is the first theatrical show in Rochester to be performed for a live audience since the COVID-19 pandemic closed theaters and other public spaces.
Stage combat choreographed for dagger-wielding actors was replaced by rapiers to keep actors distanced. Cast members wear masks for scenes in which they're on stage within a few feet of each other. The audience is spread out, and the house is limited to a crowd of 75 people per performance.
Despite these constant reminders that we live in changed times, the RCT production of "Romeo and Juliet" offers moments of nostalgic normalcy with their competent staging of a classic.
"Romeo and Juliet" is a fitting show to resume stage dramas under augmented circumstances. It’s a show most people would be familiar with, even if some of the Shakespearean puns and turns of phrases might fly over our heads or escape our immediate grasp.
Unfortunately, due to some of the unavoidable muffling of mics, that’s even more so the case in this production. Cloth masks, well designed to match the period costumes, muddy some of the lines and occasionally pick up some heavy breathing during more intense scenes.
Given the choice of that, no show at all, or, worse, unsafe conditions for the mostly teenage cast, this minor technical imperfection is well worth overlooking in order to see a show.
The young cast brings energetic performances to the stage. Logan Ackerman steals scenes as the mercurial Mercutio. Even in the presence of titular Romeo, Ackerman’s fighting, jumping and machine-gun elocution draw your attention.
Opposite him as Tybalt, Emma Bransford, although not nearly as energetic, conveys a palpable hatred that will have an indifferent audience rooting in opposition for the Montigue clan.
Rhys Van Ert, as Romeo, and Ella Frank, as Juliet, do well as the wistful, star-crossed lovers. Thankfully, the pivotal balcony scene puts the two far enough away from each other that they can perform sans masks. The two also hold their own during their respective soliloquies.
The entire cast is strong, and no one diminishes the energy or pace of the show.
The set is sparse and versatile, with lighting adding extra texture.
The production shows the challenges of safely presenting a show with such a large cast. That wasn’t planned Initially, it was set to open the day Gov. Tim Walz declared an emergency due to the outbreak.
The show offers a taste of normalcy for people hungry for it. However, masks are required, and people entering the theater will have their temperatures taken.
However, by putting on this show despite the challenges, the Civic is honoring the work the mostly teen cast put into their roles, blocking and stage combat, and that the crew put into the set design, by moving forward with the production. Audience members willing to attend or watch online would be doing the same, but also receive their own reward of a taste of normalcy with a solid show.
If you go
Tickets are available for $30; you can also stream the production online for $15. The livestream will be available through Sunday. The remaining shows are 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.