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O-o-o-oh, Romeo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o… December 3, 2012

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odd Words, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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If you were thinking of going to see the well acted and thoughtfully staged The NOLA Project production of Romeo and Juliet and NOMA: don’t. The acoustics and sight lines are horrible in the foyer of NOMA and render a great part of the dialogue, including the balcony scene, unintelligible to the audience on stage right. Only a handful of the actors–A.J. Allegro as Mercutio, Natalie Boyd as the Nurse, James Yeargain as Friar John and experienced Shakespeareans Martin Covert and Jim Wright as Montague and Capulet, managed to modulate their voices to minimize the echoes and so be intelligible and demonstrate their talent. Even the best of the actors sometimes were placed in the space so that one despairs of understanding them. Good use was made of the four entrances and stairway to generate an energetic tension in the scenes of conflict between the young men of the two families, but the scenes of Juliet on the staircase and balcony, while dramatically staged, placed her dead in the center of the echo chamber. Kristin Witterschein was a fresh and charming Juliet What can be seen from an obstructed view and what could be understood was well done, but I’m judging much of her performance from tone of voice and a few brief glimpses, as if I were watching a foreign film behind a tall man in a tall hat. I would love to see this company perform this in another place.

If you already have your tickets, be sure to arrive by 6:00 for the 7:30 curtain and run don’t walk to a seat in front stage left, where I think you would at least be able to understand the balcony scene and have unobstructed sight lines. Or else be sure to read the play before you come so you can at least play it in part in your own head. If you insist on going, buy an obstructed sight line ticket and save some money because there was no effort made to actually segregate the seating, and our full price tickets placed us squarely between two pillars and we arrived at 6:30.

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Comments»

1. Bigezbear - December 3, 2012

Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that the New Orleans audience no longer expects to hear the text of a play or to view the action presented on a stage-space; to experience character delineation or development, or to follow the yellow brick road of thematic progression. It is enough that their darlings look adorable under the pink gels from “where they are sitting.”

And I’ll make a bet with you, Folse. I’ll bet you the same problems you’ve detected would would be just as prevalent in another, better space.

Mark Folse - December 3, 2012

I don’t think anyone in the cast would have needed a lavalier, but if they had worn them and we all had wireless headphones…you still wouldn’t be able to see critical parts of the action from almost half the seats. What made the successful actors stand out was their ability to project judiciously and make themselves heard without being drowned in echoes. I think the director made good use of the space dramatically, but really should have stepped back after the first run though in the space and said: this isn’t working. It is just horrible. Instead it is a returning production, back by popular demand, which I think pretty much sums up your views about audience in general. Such a charming young Juliet, and such a striking Romeo. Let’s do buy raffle tickets for dinner with Romeo. And the dance scene at the banquet, oh, my! &c.

I think the cast would have a fighting chance and not have died so horribly in a better space.

2. Susanna - December 3, 2012

Watching an unintelligible live performance of Romeo and Juliet sounds dreadful. Just thinking of it makes me want out. But you are good to try to separate the effort from the outcome. sp

Mark Folse - December 3, 2012

I was tempted to walk out, and should have. If more people did perhaps they would take notice.


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