‘Romeo and Juliet’

Romeo and Juliet
Oct. 16-17 at 7:30pm; Oct. 18 at 5pm; Oct. 23-24 at 7:30pm; Oct. 25 at 5pm, Cooper House Courtyard, Seabury Hall, Makawao, $5-$11, 573-1257

It is with jealousy befitting a Shakespearian villain that I walk the well-manicured grounds of Seabury Hall, to the tinkling of piped chamber music. In the early-evening dusk, garden and hallway sconces cast an amber glow along the grass-edged pathway, toward the stage set up outside the Cooper House, which is illuminated by theatrical lights, draped in deep reds, its pillars wrapped in vines.

Leave it to stately Seabury to pull out all the stops for its staging of Romeo and Juliet, which features some of the finest costumes and props I’ve seen at a local production. (Major props, no pun intended, to seamstresses Caroline Clark, Carolyn Wright and Diana Spaite, along with costume consultant Andre Morissette). The weaponry too—of which, in general, I am a big fan—is stunning: great, glittering foils well-used in three swordplay scenes, daggers tucked into belts.

Somehow or other, I’ve arrived an hour early. Fortunate, as this Saturday night showing has already sold out. Sitting at a square picnic table situated under a tree—quiet with my further ruminations about what it might have been like to have spent my schooling here—I find my early-arrival has landed me a little backstage insight. Much of the young cast has assembled in the pathway nearby, still wearing their trendy modern threads, and as more arrive, they exchange hugs and squealing OMG anecdotes. “I guess we should go get dressed now,” says one lanky silhouette to the group, just 30 minutes prior to show time.

“[Shakespeare’s] Romeo and Juliet are exceptional in their individualism, and their relationship embodies the ideal of romantic love,” says director Cassandra Wormser, an accomplished Seabury alumni, in the introduction of her Director’s Notes. “The action of the play spans less than a week and, in that time, we bear witness to [their] rapid transformation from children into self-aware adults.”

Wormser likens that transition to the students in the play, who she says “ have embraced and risen to meet the challenges presented to them.”

Rising to the challenge of Mercutio, arguably the play’s the meatiest role, is Hayden Ezzy. Bold yellow cape draped jauntily over his shoulder, Ezzy is a star in the making. Onstage, his eyes are fiery, and he maintains strong command of his voice and inflections. In real-life, I observed his off-stage transactions with admiration, as he briefly broke character backstage with kind smiles and shoulder pats to friends and friends’ parents. Also thoroughly enjoyable are Chara e Tongg and the shrill fun she has with her—very believable—turn as Juliet’s nurse, as well as Tatiana Bradley, a regal vision as Lady Capulet.

Then of course there are the play’s star-crossed lovers. Nick Wright as Romeo is straight out of an American Eagle ad, and when he actually scales a ladder to the balcony where he actually kisses Deni Harrelson, as Juliet, you can’t help but feel the high-hopes fluttering of young romance—a feeling that has probably lay long-dormant for those past their dancing days.
Harrelson—though at times difficult to hear in the outdoor expanse—is a jewel you simply can’t take your eyes off. Her lustrous locks and fresh-faced looks of longing are the epitome of girlhood beauty.

This is only the second time Seabury has used the courtyard of the Cooper House as a theater venue—the first being a montage of Shakespeare scenes performed when Wormser herself was still a student. Considering the success of its opening weekend, coupled with the addition of another weekend of shows, this outdoor Upcountry theater trend is one that that’s likely to continue, and one I’ve fallen in love with—enough to happily attend hereafter, even if the plot ends in (spoiler alert for extraterrestrials and those waking from a 500-year coma) tragedy. Anu Yagi, Maui Time Weekly