Kanata Theatre to stage
Romeo and Juliet in May


Jim Holmes

Kanata Theatre

Kanata Theatre ends its 43rd Season with the play in which William Shakespeare invented the idea of the teenager in love. Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare's great story have enchanted and inspired generations of lovers and artists. Although the teen-aged Juliet and her lover are fictional, their story is so compelling that we are almost convinced that they really lived. The Town of Verona, a place Shakespeare probably never visited, still celebrates their story and incidentally profits by it. The grip of the tale on succeeding generations is evidenced by the countless tourists who make the pilgrimage to the small balcony which the residents of this northern Italian city have identified as the one on which Juliet stood. Never mind that the citizens of Verona did not speak the language of the bard. Never mind that the balcony is never mentioned in the play and was not featured in productions until more than a century after Shakespeare's death. The bronze statue of Juliet which now graces the site, its right breast rubbed shiny by the touch of thousands of visitors hoping to draw from it good fortune in matters of the heart, speaks silently but eloquently of the power of the play. Although Kanata Theatre has staged five plays by Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet will be its first "tragedy". But Romeo and Juliet is not a tragedy like the great series that began with Hamlet about five years later.

For its first half Romeo and Juliet is almost a comedy, making it a suitable companion for A Midsummer Night's Dream which followed it about a year later and which treats a similar plot as comedy. This comedic nature can especially be seen in the Nurse and Mercutio, characters of stunning originality.

Witty, bawdy, earthy, sublimely poetic, the stage would not see their like again until the appearance of Falstaff.

In each of the later tragedies Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, and Coriolanus a fatal flaw of character undoes the hero. In Romeo and Juliet no such flaw is evident unless one counts defiance of parents in matters of love as a mortal sin. The young lovers grow in dignity. It is the bungling of their elders that dooms them.

Director Tom Kobolak has set the story in the Verona of 1848, that most turbulent of years in European history, when northern Italian towns, including Verona and Mantua, were struggling in vain to overthrow their Austrian overlords.

Armed combat was in the air. Gangs of armed youths prowled the narrow streets of the town in search of trouble.

The unexplainable feud between the Capulets and the Montagues is all the excuse needed.

The 25 actors in the Kanata Theatre production have spent months in training with words and weapons for their roles as combatants in this ancient grudge match.

In Shakespeare's play the relationship between his two lovers is not merely ethereal. Passion in the full carnal sense is there, and Kanata's production will make that clear. There is an earthiness to the play and the production that verges on the bawdy.

But underlying all is the love story that inspired Shakespeare to allow Juliet to deliver what Harold Bloom has described as "the most exalted declaration of romantic love in the language":

My bounty is as boundless as the sea

My love as deep: the more I give to thee

The more I have; for both are infinite.

Romeo and Juliet runs in the Ron Maslin Playhouse, 1 Ron Maslin Way in Walter Baker Park off Terry Fox Tuesday to Saturday May 15 to 19 and 22 to 26.

Curtain is at 8 pm sharp. Tickets are $18. All seats are reserved. Parking is free. The Kanata Theatre box office number is 613-831-4435. For information you can visit www.kanatatheatre.com.

Jake Smith and Megan Carty will perform in Kanata Theatre's Romeo and Juliet.