Bonnie Sacks and Robert Black
THE TIME: Summer, 1500
THE PLACE: Verona and Mantua
On Friday, August 13, 1976, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival opened its 15th season with a period production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by William Glover.
"The lesson - if indeed Shakespeare intends one - is that reconciliation of our hatred comes ultimately from the death of our loved ones. It is a lesson still be learned from Johannesburg to Belfast, from Calvary to Beirut." - Director's NoteThe 1976 GLSF season closed with R&J, and included The Tempest, Dear Liar by Jerome Kitty, Ah, Wilderness by O'Neill and Shaw's The Devil's Disciple.
As with all things Bicentennial, the program includes the interesting factoid that the very first recorded production of Shakespeare in the colonies was in New York on March 23, 1730 and that play was, indeed, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. It was produced by the physician Joachimus Bertrand, who cast himself as the apothecary.
Don't laugh, man. I was in a version of R&J at Ohio University in 1989 where the Apothecary was played by Seabury Quinn, Jr. He owned that production.
The company included the young John Q. Bruce as Benvolio, who would a few years later play Jimmy in GLSF Artistic Director Vincent Dowling's television adaptation of Playboy of the Western World, and the startlingly handsome Jonathan Farwell as the fiery Tybalt.
Plain Dealer theater critic Bill Doll heaped this production with praise. Please enjoy the following highlights, which I swear I did not make up:
A marvelous presentation ... it fairly jumps with life. Character and speech bolt from the stage in great slices of meaning and mood.The stage swells with life.Ladies and gentlemen, Plain Dealer theater critic, Mr. Bill Doll.
Voices dip and soar, speed up and slow down, slicing through the brocaded tapestries of Elizabethan stage talk to distill, not gut, it. It's clear William Glover's actors make words what they are, in essence, vessels and masks for our emotions.
As corny as saying it seems, the speeches actually sound as if they come from within the characters: not merely reciting his lines.
Robert Black's Romeo emerges as an impulsive, terribly youthful adolescent. In fact. one might say that they boy has a problem in controlling his need to become infatuated so easily.
Bonnie Sack's Juliet is a child-woman brimming with contradiction: a child who is sensual, a knowing adult who is recklessly innocent, a whimpering wisp capable of controlling seduction.
Great Lakes Theater's 50th Anniversary Season production of Romeo and Juliet opens Saturday, April 14, 2012.
GLSF "Romeo and Juliet" 1976 program
The Plain Dealer