“A Plague on Both Your Houses”
The fourth show of the 2011 season presented by Running To Places took place at Ithaca’s State Theatre with their amazing interpretation of Romeo and Juliet. A contemporary punk urban set, soundtrack, and costumes gave the play a current feel yet the true Shakespearean language kept the show classic and authentic. A big hats off to Joey Steinhagen for amazing direction and for inspiring these talented young thespians to push themselves to incredible performances. Another kudos goes to Alexander Woodward and David Arsenault for outstanding set design and incredible lighting. For a local performance it smacked of high end production standards. I think one of the best and most memorable shows I have seen from this young company and, from all the comments of the cast members I have heard and seen on the Facebook pages, one of their favorites and most inspiring productions as well.
The lead roles of Romeo and Juliet were played with great skill, intense emotion, and touching sensitivity by Kevin Hilgartner and Nicole Rossi. Both of these extremely talented teens had us feeling the pain and anguish of these two tortured lovers with highly charged performances that captivated the audience. The attraction and love between these two was believable and everyone felt their intense sorrow at the deaths of Mercutio, Tybalt, and eventually their own suicides. Kevin has played so many fabulous roles for R2P with major parts in Anything Goes, Music Man, The Man Who Came To Dinner and a stellar performance in R2P2’s two person play, The Last Five Years opposite Alex Lopinto. Nicole is a veteran R2P performer with roles in Honk, two Spring Showcases, Guys and Dolls, and Footloose. Her intensely emotional portrayal of Juliet brought tears to many. They were both stunning in these roles and showed us the best of their talent and dedication.
Kevin’s younger sister, Erin Hilgartner, who first appeared for us singing “Benjamin Calypso” in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, came back to amuse us and thrill us as Mercutio. Accompanied on stage by Charlotte Senders as Benvolio, the two fought, chased, verbally sparred, and tangled with just about everyone. Erin’s chiding of Romeo and attempts to conjure him from the night while dressed in a hot dog costume were delightful, and Mercutio’s knife fight with Tybalt, played so dramatically by Cacidy Roseman, and ultimate death in Romeo’s arms showed such amazing drama and emotion from this incredible middle-schooler, we were all simply amazed at every performance.
The fight scenes were choreographed so carefully and rehearsed over and over again and as a result had a very realistic feel, particularly the knife fight and the subsequent battle between Romeo and Tybalt where Tybalt is ultimately slain. Cacidy bravely took one for the team when he was actually injured in dress rehearsals during the knife fight, yet came back every night to make the drama real.
The other stunning performance in the show came from Anthony Nigro who, dressed in drag, played Juliet’s nurse. Anthony gave this character such amazing life and played the role with such love and sympathy for Juliet. You almost stole the show Anthony.
James Palmer played the role of Friar Laurence, counseling Romeo and Juliet with love and concern, trying desperately to help the two young lovers come together and eventually come up with a scheme to keep them together after Romeo’s banishment, yet his plan’s failure is their ultimate undoing.
To all the cast members, production crew, and support staff, I have to give a standing ovation on this one. A brilliant production, fabulous performances, and one of, if not the very best I’ve seen from Running To Places. You were all magnificent. I don’t know how you will top this one.
All images are Copyright © George Cannon
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