The players for "Romeo and Juliet" are introduced to the Seminary Park audience

The players for “Romeo and Juliet” are introduced to the Seminary Park audience

Last night Mrs K. and I ended our brief 3 week vacation from theatre and took in Romeo and Juliet at Seminary Park in Noblesville on, dare I say, a crisp summer night (with temps dropping into the mid 60’s by final curtain). A crowd of almost 200 men, women, teens, kids and dogs gathered on the park’s grassy knolls for the 20th anniversary production of Shakespeare in the Park which has been sponsored annually by The Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission. The summer fest was started in 1993 by Jane Campbell and Greg Richards and has always provided an excellent program for the community. This year was no exception as director Ryan Shelton (with assistant, Christy Clinton) has put together quite a fine production of what may be the bard’s most famous work.

Performed on a necessarily bare-bones set, a rather large troupe of 23 actors and actresses bring to life the famous tale of conflict, love and tragedy. Jordan Donica plays the Romeo role with great energy and a firm understanding of the young man’s feelings and plight. He fills his portrayal with a wonderful voice, balanced movements and spot-on characterization – focusing at all times on the job of being Romeo. It might be said, he steals the show with an immense performance.

Playing opposite, Brianna Handy’s Juliet is gentle and loving and true. Ms. Handy is adroitly up to the task of her role, and never wavers in her pursuit of it. Although hers is a bit less immense a performance, she is an exceptional match for Donica’s Romeo. Consequently, their scenes together are some of the best that are presented in this show.

Many fine local actors fill the remaining roles, including standout performances by Daniel Shock as the helpful, yet troubled Friar Lawrence; Jean Adams as the wise and loving Nurse; John Parks Whitaker as the smart-mouthed Mercutio; and Patrick Stroud as Romeo’s “wingman”, Benvolio. Greg Simpson as Peter, provides some comic moments, while all the “heads of households”, Mark Tumey and Fran Knapp as Lord and Lady Capulet, and Rob Lawson and Anne Auewaerter as Lord and Lady Montague, do very good turns in their important roles. Dave Eckart is solid as The Prince.

Also of note, the sword play, choreographed by central Indiana’s resident fight coordinator, Eric Bryant, was brisk, believable and very well-rehearsed. Each actor/participant, and there were many, was very sure footed in his task. I noticed a great deal of variety in the fighting and I felt the action added a lot to the play.

Director Shelton’s staging was well thought out, given the stage area’s limitations. Costumes by Tamara Rulon and her crew were colorful and appropriate to the times and with Jim William’s lights and David Hartman’s sound, the show’s technical aspects were always on the mark, though a few microphone glitches came and went with barely a notice.

The Seminary Park crowd at last night's performance of "Romeo and Juliet"

The Seminary Park crowd at last night’s performance of “Romeo and Juliet”

Seminary Park has always been a great venue – there is a lot of parking around the area, the knoll allows for good seating and a clear view of the action and the park’s gazebo is a versatile enough stage centerpiece to have been used for most all of the 20 S.I.P. productions.

It was a very enjoyable evening – the only things I might have adjusted were the temperature, which, of course, no one has control of, and the length of the show – which at 2 hours (without an intermission) only increased the damage the temps were doing and seemed unnecessarily long. I am certain that some cuts had been made already, but even without the cold, I might have thought to make further cuts as, in my mind, there are many segments of the script that tend to elongate and repeat the necessary parts of the drama. Purists will say: the bard, being without equal, should always be presented in whole form. My sense is that he was presenting to a certain audience then, and since the audience is the reason we present anything – it is to them that we owe our production decisions. A shorter, more concise presentation would have been appreciated and likely nothing that was cut would have been missed.

Alas, we made it to the end just fine, and rushed to the shelter of our vehicle – and the show was very enjoyable.

If you plan on seeing this production, it is free and it is scheduled to be done again next Thursday-Saturday evenings at around 8:30pm at Seminary Park, just south of downtown Noblesville on the corner of 10th and Cherry. Bring blankets, chairs, snacks, drinks of your choice (wine seemed to be a favorite) and dress for the evening’s possibilities.

The cast and crew of Noblesville SiP's "Romeo & Juliet"

The cast and crew of Noblesville SiP’s “Romeo & Juliet”

* Photos, borrowed from Facebook, are the work of David Heighway