LA Review: 'Romeo and Juliet'

Coeurage Theatre Company at Actors Circle Theatre

Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder

April 24, 2012


Photo by Laura Crow
Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” arguably the most overproduced love story of all time, is an audacious choice for any fledgling acting troupe performing in a humble 47-seat converted storefront, but the Coeurage Theatre Company is nothing if not courageous. Squeezing 19 actors onto this modest stage, however, proves daunting, even for a director as talented and artistically stouthearted as Jeremy Lelliott. Finding that many players able to share a consistent vision is tough at Ashland, let alone West Hollywood.

What emerges is a robust, delightfully bawdy first act, with the crotch-grabbing citizens of Verona looking for more than roses to smell or enemies to duel. Lelliott makes much of the Bard’s lewd double-entendres intended to appeal to the groundlings, as well as showcasing how easily his star-crossed lovers suddenly fall in love, leaving Rosaline and a long-standing family feud in the dust.

Lelliott has a remarkable partner in his Juliet, Sammi Smith, who brings a hearty tomboyish quality to the role, avoiding the quivering sighs and delicate eyelash fluttering that overwhelm so many interpreting the part. Her performance is rich and full of the kind of life necessary to make Romeo give up everything he holds dear. Lynn Ann Leveridge is a standout as her nurse, contributing a robustness and depth to the character without descending into caricature. Noah Gillett gives Friar Laurence a youthful whimsy, Deven Simonson is hilariously randy as the doomed Mercutio, and Ryan Miller delivers fiery strength in the often overlooked role of Prince Escalus.

Others are less successful—again, something hard to control when attempting a sweeping Shakespearean epic on a small scale. As Romeo, Jonas Barranca is impressive in Act 1, finding both a lustiness and a silly sweetness as the love-struck teenager, but when things go bad, Barranca turns him into a pouty kid told by his parents that he can’t have the car keys. Graham Kurtz seems convinced that all one needs to deliver Benvolio’s lines is to stare into the lights and rattle off words as quickly as humanly possible, while Gedaly Guberek’s Woody Allen of a Peter, funny in some scenes, becomes distracting when things turn tragic.

Flaws notwithstanding, this is a memorable effort, thanks to a gifted director’s fearless concept that clearly energizes everyone involved, particularly his dynamic, hauntingly real leading lady.

Presented by Coeurage Theatre Company at the Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. April 14–May 20. Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. www.coeurage.org or by email at boxoffice@coeurage.org.
 

 
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