Capital Fringe Review: ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Carolyn Kelemen

‘A Romeo to die for’ Be still my heart!

 On a sultry summer night, just like Juliet (a feisty Raven Bonniwell), this writer fell in love with Romeo (Sean Huddock) in the We Happy Few production of Romeo and Juliet at the Capital Fringe Festival.

My heart also skipped a beat or two for the tap-dancing, blonde Mercutio, (William Vaughan), plus a few more for Chris Genebach, Chris Dinolfo, Nathan James Bennett, Kiernan McGowan, and Paul Reisman. All of them! Let’s just say the seven guys and one woman are fabulous actors and fun to watch as they romp about in various trans-gender roles, except for Juliet who carries the show with her never-wavering devotion to becoming the woman she wants to be (with or without Romeo). Meanwhile, Bennett steals the show as the knife-wielding Tybolt, then with a quick addition of an apron, Juliet’s caring nurse.


But, “Beware,” as the Bard might have suggested. Do not to sit in the first row at the Source Theatre (where I was taking notes) or you may become part of the show. And feel free to close your eyes from time to time. The fight scenes are extremely physical – grunts, groans, and sweat pouring from dragged bodies to and from the entrances – so perhaps it’s better to sit high above the fracas. On the other hand, in one of those carefully staged fights between the dueling Capulet and Montague siblings in the opening show, a flyaway knife landed on the top row, thankfully avoiding an audience member. It caused but a chuckle, both from the guy who picked it up and the actor who continued his Shakespearean dialogue without missing a beat.

Hannah Todd, the founding director with Bonniwell of independent theatre companyWe Happy Few, gets a nod for gathering such talent, Equity actors among the troupe that garnered rave reviews for Hamlet in last year’s Fringe Festival. Todd and Bonniwell succeed with innovative directorial choices, pushing the boundaries of violence and romance through feminist eyes.

As for the Creative designers, Curry Hackett designed sets that moved easily across the stage; Jason Aufdem-Brinke was a whiz at lighting, and the sound sounded fine by Roc LeeAudrey Rose Barber designed costumes in blood red for Juliet with a tinge of rouge on Romeo’s tie. No pantaloons in this production, mostly jeans and 21st century footwear.

Nonetheless, the “star” of this production is surely Fight Choreographer Casey Kaleba, who has staged fights for more than 300 productions in theatre, television, and opera. It’s worth the price of admission to see these guys pull off every macho movement found in Shakespeare, while Juliet takes it all in and decides just how this play will unfold.

Eat your heart out Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Daines – you’re not the only contemporary actors who can pull off 16th dialogue with wit and charm. When Bonniwell (Juliet) recites the famous line, “Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night. And pay no worship to the garish sun.”…we all melt a little. As for Hudock (Romeo), he’s as cute as Leo!

Any Shakespeare fan should see this pared-down cut version with more or less of authentic words by the Bard of Avon. Bring the family – it really works for all generations.

Running Time:  90 minutes.

Romeo and Juliet has plays through July 24, 2013 at Source Theatre – 1835 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For performance times and to purchase tickets, visit the show’s Capital Fringe page.

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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.



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