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There Is Only One Word for Burning Coal Theatre Company’s “Romeo & Juliet,” and It is “Wow!”

Emily Rose White and Joey Heyworth play star-crossed lovers Juliet and Romeo for Burning Coal in William Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" (photo by photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Emily Rose White and Joey Heyworth play star-crossed lovers Juliet and Romeo for Burning Coal in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” (photo by photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)

There is only one word for Burning Coal Theatre Company’s current production of Romeo & Juliet, and it is “Wow!” Emily Ranii so emphasizes the beauty of The Bard’s language, poetry, emotional universe, and movements that it becomes this cast’s possession for two hours. And they share it with us in abandon. Ranii herself is a gift to us; she brings Shakespeare to life.

Enter the theater. The format is fully in the round, divided diagonally by a single narrowing pathway across the bare floor. Perpendicular to the line, at center stage, two ladders rise majestically above the height of the balcony. Two folding chairs are nestled at each of their bases.

Scenery designer Jordan Jaked adds a platform between the ladders for the second act. Nothing more. Emotional and dramatic content is subtly enhanced by lighting designer Ed Intermann’s delicate shifting of lights and shadows. Casual modern dress in muted, daily hues, by costume designer Evan Prizant, pulls the action into the present enough to allow for contemporary resonance.

Emily Ranii has taken on assistant director and choreographer Mikaela Saccooccio to create sinuous, stylized dances that make affection sensuous and conflict violent. The result is poetic movement that draws the audience in magnetically, and may leave one weakened for a moment. This is powerful theater. Added to scene changes that kick in like a shot gun and line delivery that is crisp and understandable and communicates honest emotions and wicked humor you have a Romeo and Juliet that is different from any production you’ve seen and likely more entertaining as well.

Age appropriate Emily Rose White plays a willful yet innocent Juliet beautifully, with all the coquettishness and vulnerability of a real teenager in love. Romeo is played with all the vigor and bravado of a love-sick puppy, also capturing the reluctance of having to kill Tybalt to avenge Mercutio, by Joey Heyworth, in a tour de force performance, displaying a wide range of nuanced passions.

Joel Oramas, Erin Tito, and Matthew Hager play Mercutio, the Nurse, and Benvolio in Burning Coal's presentation of "Romeo & Juliet" (photo by photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Joel Oramas, Erin Tito, and Matthew Hager play Mercutio, the Nurse, and Benvolio in Burning Coal’s presentation of “Romeo & Juliet” (photo by photo by the Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Mark Filiaci is strong as Capulet, his delivery shows familiarity with Shakespearean cadence, and his energy is unfaltering. Benji Taylor Jones shows the deep concern of a mother who must appease her husband while supporting her headstrong daughter, as Lady Capulet.

Gil Faison plays The Prince with command and a fine stage presence, bringing order to the messes he steps into, and leaving no doubt as to who is in charge. Juliet’s nurse is played by Erin Tito with gusto and a quick comic touch.

Mercutio is played by Joel Oramas, who shines in the badinage between his character and Romeo. This ensemble is made complete by excellent performances.

This is the first event in “Wherefore: Shakespeare in Raleigh” which will be followed up by seven more Shakespeare-related shows between now and June. This is a great kick-off for the series.

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 23rd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7198; Jan. 23rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/23/4498884/theater-review-romeo-and-juliet.html; Jan. 21st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/romeo-and-juliet/Event?oid=4304840; and Jan. 23rd Raleigh, NC ArtsNowNC guest blog by Jerome Davis: http://artsnownc.com/2015/01/19/guest-blog-sometimes-life-imitates-art-burning-coal/.

Burning Coal Theatre Company ROMEO & JULIET at 2 p.m. Jan. 25, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29-31, 2 p.m. Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5-7, 2 p.m. Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12-14, 2 p.m. Feb. 15 in Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.

TICKETS: $25 ($15 students and active-duty military personnel and $20 seniors), except “Pay What You Can” Day on Sunday, Jan. 25th, $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), $10 Thursdays, and $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.

SHOW: http://burningcoal.org/romeo-juliet/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/703276249770099/.

VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-ts=1421914688&v=pNz6mHmcBXw&x-yt-cl=84503534. 2014-15 SEASON: http://burningcoal.org/mainstage/.

PRESENTER: http://www.burningcoal.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Burning.Coal.Theatre, and https://twitter.com/burningcoaltc.

VENUE/DIRECTIONS: http://burningcoal.org/murphey-school-auditorium/.

NOTE 1:The 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25th, show is a Pay-What-You-Can Performance.

NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25th, performance.

OTHER LINKS:

Romeo & Juliet (c. 1591-95 tragedy): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/romeoscenes.html (Shakespeare-Online.com, with the plays annotated by Amanda Mabillard).

Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/romeo/juliet.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).

Emily Ranii (Ithaca, NY director): http://www.emilyranii.com/ (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/emily.ranii (Facebook page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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