‘Romeo and Juliet’ find love, death in New Orleans
Erica Michaelson and Geordie Denholm star in “Romeo and Juliet” at Concordia University Chicago.
‘Romeo and Juliet’
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 9-18
Artists of Concordia Theatre at Bergmann Theatre, Concordia University Chicago, 7400 Augusta St., River Forest
$15, $10 for seniors and students
(708) 209-3469; www.cuchicago.edu
Updated: November 8, 2012 9:06AM
Life is far from simple for two young lovers in the Big Easy.
Their families don’t get along and, even in free-spirited 1920s New Orleans, their relationship seems doomed.
That’s the backdrop for director Jason Narvy’s intriguing take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” for the Artists of Concordia Theatre.
“I needed to find a framing that I felt did justice to the world of the script that I wanted to create but also was accessible to the kids,” Narvy said. “New Orleans is a place that is frozen in time, timeless, romantic and chilling all at the same time.”
Narvy set the play’s opening festivities at a Day of the Dead celebration. “Romeo confuses the idea of extreme passion with playing with death,” the director explained. “And in New Orleans, there are cities of the dead everywhere.”
Concordia music students were enlisted to evoke the jazz age ambiance. “I’m using the band as sort of a walking commentary throughout the entire play,” Narvy said.
Romeo is played by Geordie Denholm, a sophomore theater major from Columbus, Ind., who plans to attend a four-year seminary after graduation. Denholm, who was active in theater throughout high school, has performed in “Fuddy Meers” and “Godspell” at Concordia.
He said, “Romeo is a young teenager who really wants to be in love. He wants to pine so he spends a lot of his time reciting poetry or speaking fancily to impress people.”
When he spies Juliet, Romeo is instantly smitten. “He goes and visits her at night not even hoping to talk to her but just to gaze upon this beauty that he knows that he can’t have because his family hates her family,” Denholm related. Then, when she speaks to him, “He realizes that she loves him back. In that exchange, they realize that they’re kind of on the same level intellectually, poetically, romantically. They realize that they’re perfect for each other.”
Erica Michaelson is Juliet. The sophomore, who is in the director of Christian education program, attended an arts high school in her hometown of Appleton, Wis. She also appeared in “Fuddy Meers” at Concordia.
“It’s been an awesome project to dig into the character,” Michaelson said of playing Juliet. “When I first started exploring, I thought she was a naive little teenage girl. But she’s a very strong character because of what she grows through. She falls in love quickly and then is taken from her. Her family abandons her, her nurse — who she loves more than anyone — abandons her, her husband has to leave her and everyone seems to die. So she’s kind of left all on her own. I think that’s why she turns from a girl to a woman in the play.”
Denholm thinks that placing the story in 1920s New Orleans and highlighting the Day of the Dead, “works really well. The whole play has death tones throughout. And the fascination with voodoo in New Orleans fits almost perfectly. It’s kind of crazy how well it fits.”
Michaelson agreed that the concept works well. “It’s an era that’s full of life, especially in New Orleans,” she said. “It was a time when there was starting to be a gap between the rich and the poor.”
Michaelson is looking forward to seeing how director Narvy, “transforms the set and brings that New Orleans to life.” ~.