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Great Lakes Theater’s production Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is Too...

Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is one of his most often performed works falling in between A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream and Hamlet in regard to frequency of staging. Each production has its own interpretation as to the original intent of the playwright with anything ranging from Zeffirelli’s movie version to the recent Spielberg’s try at “West Side Story.” Some versions ring true while others fall short of the play’s rich potential.

As for the latest Great Lakes Theater’s offering at the Hanna Theatre it unfortunately leans more towards the latter. This is not to say that it is a bad production, it is simply not as good as it could possibly be. In essence it is flawed.

On the bright side there are some notable elements. The stage sets are ingenious as the use of lighting changes the scenes back and forth from a courtyard, Juliet's bedroom, a Monastery, a Grand Ball Room, a tomb and etc. Costuming while modern is functional especially for the fight scenes. The fight scenes are very well staged, lively and with an air of authenticity.

On the downside there some problems. As for the casting it is a bit off in principle. This tragic tale is the story of two teenagers who fall in love against their family's wishes. The key word here is “teenagers.” Romeo seems to be in his late twenties while very thin and demure Juliet appears to be well past her teen years as well. Juliet’s nurse spends most of the time yukking it up even though the work is billed as a tragedy. Juliet’s mother spends most of her time on stage screeching to the point where you just want to walk up and slap her silly. While the fight scenes are well choreographed, they tend to run a bit long. For that matter the entire show runs to just shy of three hours which is a long sit for theater seating (there is a fifteen-minute intermission in order to regain the circulation to your extremities).

Mercutio‘s role is expanded to be way too enthusiastic to the point where it reminds you of a certain pork product. For that matter, everyone on stage seems to be trying to outdo each other in that particular meat department. There is one exception. While Mercutio is on the more robust end of the spectrum, Paris is downplayed to the point where the “teen lovers” could just as well have died of boredom. Lastly, the use of sexual innuendos was overtly overdone during the more raucous scenes.

Be forewarned. This is a more “Shakespeare in your face” version of the classic tragedy with extended sword fights, screeching parents, teens past their expiration date, an overly comical nurse and (dare we say it) some over acting stretched out to nearly three hours. Some will love it, others will not. Buy a ticket and decide for yourself.

Great Lakes Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” will be on stage in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square through November 6, 2022. For more information and tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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