No matter how often, or how rarely, you may have seen Shakespeare’s love letter to “Romeo and Juliet,” it still returns with blazing life, in the romantic balcony scene, in the hard lessons we learn about Capulets and Montagues and in the eternal flame of lives snuffed out too soon.
The production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison has held audiences spellbound during its run. With a simple, unadorned stage reflecting the Italian renaissance period in Verona and muted costumes, director Ian Belknap has kept the focus on the poetry of the lines and the personalities so ably illuminated.
Miranda Rizzolo as Juliet and Keshav Moodliar are ardent as they pledge their love and refuse all efforts to pull them apart. They exemplify the teenage angst that rushes them to a tragic ending. Rizzolo, in the balcony scene, is especially effective in her exuberant love for Romeo.
Mark Elliot Wilson as Lord Capulet is strong and convincing in his determination for Juliet to wed Paris (Ryan Woods), another suitor. Erin Partin as Lady Capulet conveys the keen sense of loss as the tragedy unfolds.
Aedin Moloney as the nurse provides much needed moments of humor while also establishing her devotion to young Juliet. Torsten Johnson as Tybalt exemplifies the divisive nature of the long standing family feud as he challenges Romeo to a dual. But, by then, Romeo has married Juliet and resists his demands. When Mercutio (Joshua David Robinson) fights Tybalt instead, Romeo’s friend is killed. That spurs Romeo to action, thus killing Tybalt and being banished from Verona. Then we have Matt Sullivan as Friar Lawrence, whose ingenious plan to help Romeo and Juliet escape, ultimately backfires.
There’s plenty of swordplay, meditating monks and a bit of frivolity and more to keep the production rolling along. Although some speeches are long winded, the overall message comes through. With the death of the lovers, the two feuding families realize they must settle their differences and accept each other.
Costumes by Paul Canada, a sleek set by Lee Savage and lighting by Michael Gianntti round out a well delivered tale of love and longing.
“Romeo and Juliet” continued at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, located on the campus of Drew University in Madison, through Nov. 17. For tickets, call 973-408-5600 or visit shakespearenj.org.