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A CurtainUp NJ Review
I'm not casting a female in the role of Juliet.
I'm not doing it.
The Elizabethans wouldn't have done it that way.
I'm not casting a female as Juliet.
— Charlie
David A. Ware and Nadia Brown (photo credit: SusAnne Barabas)
Where else can you find that perfect confluence of intrigue, subterfuge, jealousy and resentment than on your average college campus? Academia's perils and pitfalls have been cleverly calculated to unnerve us in Robert Caisley's &Juliet now having its world premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company. Despite its somewhat heavy-handed direction by Marc Geller, &Juliet provides the audience with some gripping confrontations and as many tension-creating incidents.

&Juliet David (John FitzGibbon), an aging, stodgy and tenured professor of theater is informed by his superiors at a conservative college to make room for Charlie (Jacob A. Ware) a young, good-looking young theatre director. It isn't so much that Charlie has been given a choice office location overlooking the campus green that mostly upsets David, but rather Charlie's challenge to the theater department with his radical directorial approach to as his first production of the semester. At the outset, we are able to perceive David's barely concealed condescension, if not downright hostility. towards Charlie as he babbles on and on.

It is not David nor his tone that takes Charlie by surprise but rather the unexpected effrontery of Annie (Nadia Brown), a black theatre major who is now a senior. She is desperate to audition for the role of Juliet not only because it may be her only opportunity before graduation to show how talented she is, but also because she has heretofore not been given a change to do more than minor acting roles or as a member of the backstage crew. The hitch is that Charlie has already cast a high school boy from the neighboring town in the role of Juliet, thus adhering to the Elizabethan tradition, no women on stage.

What quickly emerges in the opening scene is a terrifying example of how volatile student-teacher relationships are and how they can erupt without warning or extraordinary provocation. Also surfacing for all concerned are some deep-seated neuroses. But what really fuels the play is not whether Annie is able to coerce Charlie into giving her the role but her deviousness.

For some, this play may bring back memories of David Mamet's Oleanna in which a student follows a carefully engineered plan to undermine and take control away from an unsuspecting professor. The plot for &Juliet, though not quite the same, reminds us, however, how easily we become unwitting victims when our flaws are exposed.

If the very fine Ms. Brown can control the volume and shrillness in her voice, her performance will be all the more chilling. As David, FitzGibbon has no problem with keeping a taut rein on his effectively effete facade. Ware is excellent as the increasingly insecure, seriously damaged Charlie. Within the confines of Jessica Park's revolving set, these three players never lose their equilibrium in a plot that twists and turns quite nicely toward its startling conclusion.

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&Juliet by Robert Caisley
Directed by Marc Geller
Cast: Nadia Brown (Annie), John FitzGibbon (David), Jacob A. Ware (Charlie)
Stage Manager: Kristin Pfeifer
Scenic Design: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Costume Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, N.J.
From 05/04/17 Opened 05/06/17Ends 06/04/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 05/06/17

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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