Romeo and Juliet

Penfold's condensed version of Shakespeare's play, played by five actors, brings out the heart of the tragedy

Still star-crossed: Ryan Crowder as Romeo 
and Julia Lorenz-Olson as Juliet
Still star-crossed: Ryan Crowder as Romeo and Julia Lorenz-Olson as Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Round Rock Amphitheater, 301 W. Bagdad, Round Rock, 512/850-4849
www.penfoldtheatre.org
Through June 28
Running time: 2 hr.

Shakespeare wrote a tragedy for every season of life. Some speak to the grief of old age, and others point to the errors of our middle years. Romeo and Juliet is about what comes from following the passions of our youth.

Penfold Theatre Company has made its mark producing small-cast plays with great performers and solid direction. Its Romeo and Juliet is no different. The play's large cast of characters has been pared down to be played by only five actors. Ryan Crowder (who also plays Romeo) has condensed the script into two well-paced hours that illuminate all the key points of a plot that has many moving parts. The production captures the brashness of these characters, and, in turn, it points to the thrill and the danger of acting from passion rather than wisdom.

Joseph Garlock's Mercutio is one of the most satisfying in memory. The character may be the first of many to die in the play, but more than any other he shows how small, harmless impulses born of dissatisfaction can flare into tragedies. In fact, what's striking about Penfold's production is how scenes that are often overlooked in other stagings stick in the mind later: Romeo carousing with his buddies or the Nurse interrupting their jockeying to deliver a message. At the end of the day, Romeo and his friends are just dudes hanging out – except heavily armed and caught in the middle of a feud between two very rich and dangerous patriarchs.

Julia Lorenz-Olson's Juliet is a tricky point. For a modern audience that, one hopes, takes satisfaction from seeing strong women characters who know their own minds, it's arguably natural to seek out a Juliet who's more forceful than demure. An appealing performer, Lorenz-Olson plays these choices well. Yet some tiny bit of credibility lacks in the romance. Her impulsiveness is clear, but Juliet here is more woman than girl. Could someone so able to stand her ground really show the tragedy of not knowing her own mind fully? In a play of untempered passions from all quarters, there's a lingering sense that this Juliet, on some level, ought to have known better.

Kari Taylor deserves credit for designing appealing costumes that allow the actors to change characters with impressive speed. Likewise, director Steven Pounders provides direction that is nimble and inventive, given the challenges of producing a show at the Round Rock Amphitheater. A few scenes struggle under the strictures of the small cast, as actors have no option but to change onstage during important moments. Otherwise, the pacing here is impressive and engaging.

Each summer, Penfold provides a family-friendly show for its outdoor slot. This Romeo and Juliet has great actors and clear direction, making it the kind of show that will entertain children and engage audiences after more complex fare. It brings out the heart of the tragedy in a way that is ultimately satisfying.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Romeo and Juliet
Exhibitionism
Romeo and Juliet
Despite some casting questions, the Baron's Men create a moving and involving version of this well-known tragedy

Stacy Alexander Evans, April 18, 2014

More Austin theatre
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in <i>Tales of a Blerd Ballerina</i>
Valoneecia Tolbert Geeks Out in Tales of a Blerd Ballerina
The actress looks back at what it was to be young, geeky, and Black

Robert Faires, April 9, 2021

Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Women & Their Work's
"We Know Who We Are. We Know What We Want."
In this inaugural exhibition at W&TW's new permanent home, nine artists provide an inquiry of breadth and depth

Robert Faires, Sept. 10, 2021

"Beyond Van Gogh" Is a Three-Dimensional Perspective With a One-Dimensional Outlook
Touring immersive exhibition continues at Circuit of Americas through Sept. 5

Cody Song, Aug. 20, 2021

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Book Review: <i>Network Effect</i> by Martha Wells
Book Review: Network Effect by Martha Wells
In this first full-length novel featuring Murderbot, the violent but endearing rogue AI is back for more adventures to delight "all the stupid humans"

July 31, 2020

Sad Girls Productions’ <i>So Lucky</i>
Sad Girls Productions' So Lucky
This world premiere from a brand-new company lacks polish, but it does honor its community’s stories

March 20, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Romeo and Juliet, Austin theatre, Penfold Theatre Company, Steven Pounders, Ryan Crowder, Joseph Garlock, Julia Lorenz-Olson, Kari Taylor

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle