I had the great pleasure to be invited to attend the opening night of Romeo and Juliet a Shakespeare production put on by Post 5 Theater and staged at Milepost 5 in the Montavilla neighborhood of NE Portland. Not only did we attend but we played the parts of the King and Queen of Verona – and I will tell you later how you too can play this role.
Romeo and Juliet is full of romance and tragedy, feuding between opposing families, and a priest that has the sense to do what is right for individuals and community alike. It tells the tale of two people – betrothed to others – who stumble upon each other. The problem is that they come from two different families, families that hate each other, of different classes, of different backgrounds. Romeo and Juliet immediately know that they are meant to be together and are secretly married. However, Juliet must now get herself out of the other arranged marriage that is meant to take place in just a few days. A plot is hatched and everything works smoothly – except that Romeo never learns of the plan. When he arrives he believes that his beloved wife is dead and cannot bear to think about life without her. So he kills himself just before Juliet springs to life again. It is now her turn to be distraught and she too cannot bear to go through life without her beloved Romeo, so she kills herself. Their deaths do bring one good thing in that the families stop feuding and come together to celebrate their dead children.
This was not only an opening night, but a brand new venture, set itself in a very unique location – Milepost 5, also known as “Community for Creatives”. Conversations after the performance revealed that some of the actors live in these very walls – and the walls were quite creatively used. During the performance actors would appear in the windows, or in the case of Romeo, fall out of a window, and of the course, the balcony scene had Romeo climbing up a somewhat modified crate to get to his beloved Juliet.
It was clear that some of the actors were comfortable in their roles, enjoyed them and at times became engrossed in their roles. Some of the fight scenes were well performed and managed to bring some humor into them at the same time (I know – difficult but true). Other actors were clearly a lot more junior and while they said the words, did not fully convey the meaning of them, but not everyone can be of the same level of experience. However, none of the actors detracted from the overall enjoyment. Three shout-out for outstanding performances. In the Montague corner we have two of Romeo’s friends Benvolio, played by Izzie Buckner and Mercution, played by Orion Bradshaw – who was also one of the co-directors. The way in which they played off of each other was a total pleasure to watch. The expressions on Izzie’s face and the way both of them used their words, and actions was a total pleasure.
The third great performance came from Jessi Walters who played the part of Juliet’s Nurse – a member of the Capulet family. While it was not clear at times if she played the part of a nurse, a washer woman, or even a pan handler, she was a fun character, and provided a whole load of amusement, and yet at the same time, could also portray great sorrow.
So will this go down as one of the greatest performance of Romeo and Juliet – no, but it was very enjoyable and will be a great way for many new faces to obtain the experience they need to start or extend a career in acting and of putting on theater. It may well be the greatest rendition that has ever happened in this part of town, and that too is important – especially in these trying times when many cannot afford to get to the large downtown theater productions.
The entire production was done on a shoestring, but none of that mattered. Modern day dress was used, for the most part, with just a few props and a few cans of beer consumed by the actors during their performance (they even used cheap beer). So get out your blankets, your lawn chairs and enjoy this. Please also help support them by dropping a few dollars in the hat to help them keep putting on performances.
Where: Milepost theater through August 27th. 850 NE 81st Ave. Portland
Cost: Free but please make a donation
When Friday through Sunday at 7pm
Almost forgot. The best seats in the house are those to the right of the stage. You will probably find a blanket and pillows laid out for the best seats in the house. They are reserved for the King and Queen of Verona. You can take on that role by making a small donation to the theater group via an auction, plus they threw in a gift basket to keep us nourished and quaffed during the performance. So if you arrive late and don’t have the greatest of seats – all is not lost. Get out your wallet and upgrade yourself to the best seats in the house!
Also for photographers – a lesson learned. Always – yes always carry a spare battery and a spare flash card. I thought my battery was fully charged, but half way through the performance my battery died and I was left helpless!
Brought to you by Brian Bailey
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Romeo & Juliet