When you hear about a retirement home, the vision comes easily.
Old people sitting around, watching hour after hour of television, waiting for a visit from someone. Bibs aplenty to catch the drool. Sometimes shaky caregivers.
That’s the vision almost all of us have.
But not in the eccentric, many times brilliant and always interesting mind of Dale Gutzman, artistic director of Off The Wall Theatre.
Gutzman’s vision of a retirement home came to life in "Romeo and Juliet," which opened Thursday night and runs through April 6. And to say this version of the Shakespeare classic love story is unusual is a massive understatement.
Gutzman sets his production in Casa dei (sic) Attori di Verona, a retirement home for old actors from Verona, not coincidentally the same city where Romeo fell in love with Juliet.
The premise is simple. These actors, all of whom have seen better days, decide to put on a performance of "Romeo and Juliet." Many of them had probably done the show in their salad days, but this is different.
Gutzman could have played this as a comedy, a spoof or the sort. That surely seems like the expected way to go. But Gutzman rarely does the expected.
On this one, he plays it straight. He lets the play tell the story of family jealousies and treacheries and of a love so pure and so tempestuous that it knew no boundaries.
Gutzman, who is 69, played Romeo, who was probably 15 or 16 in the original. Marilyn White, 67, played Juliet, who is 13 in Shakespeare's play. And after a short time, I forgot how old they really were. I fell in love, as audiences have for centuries, with the young boy and his surprisingly young love.
I knew it was going to be an unusual production when the audience came into the tiny theater. The actors were all on stage in various costumes, talking and interacting with each other and audience members. It was informality at its most obvious.
But once the real lights came up and the actors became characters, the play took of…Read more...