Poor casting aside, ‘Romeo & Juliet’ holds up
Let me get this out of the way up front: Just once, I would like to see a professional theater company present “Romeo & Juliet” with age-appropriate actors. This season has given us a chance to see two fine productions of Shakespeare’s classic tale of the star-crossed lovers, first at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and now at the Human Race Theatre in Dayton, and both productions feature actors at least a decade older than what the characters are supposed to be, and in both cases, it’s a major distraction. In the Human Race production, CCM grad Elana Ernst brings a lot of charm and energy to Juliet, but she doesn’t seem to even understand that the character is but a child and at times plays the wrong notes, especially in the tragic final scene where she seems downright amused at the irony. Jordan Coughry, a veteran of the Shakespeare Company of New Jersey fares better and at least plays it like a teenager. Put that to the side, however, and this “Romeo & Juliet” is a visually compelling work, taking place on a set designed like an aging European courtyard and costumes that merge period and contemporary dress with non-descript vintage styles of clothing — which works well, for the most part, although the giant scarves seem to frequently get in the actors’ way. Regional favorite Dale Hodges gets all the laughs as Juliet’s Nurse, while Jennifer Johansen and Jim Hopkins also stand out as her parents. But of course, the real star is the poetry of William Shakespeare and the language that elevates a simple story of young love into an epic tragedy.