Rosaline & Juliet: I laughed, I cringed

Rosaline & Juliet
Salad Days Theatre Company, Tecumseh, ON
Playwright: Samantha Westlake
Featuring: Paul Renick & Dennis Ljeti, Ashley - Anne Roy, Alice - Jenna Feltham, Kristin - Emily Deimling, Amanda - Rebecca Soulliere, Danielle - Chelsea Reaume
Warnings: A little fog and some harmless cross-dressing!
Audience: General Entertainment, Comedy with Music
Their description: In Shakespeare’s time, men played women in shows. In high school, girls play everyone! That is, until a transfer student finds himself in the middle of an all-female production of Romeo and Juliet. With less than a month before the drama festival, can the cast accept the shake-up?
Run Time: 60 minutes
Remaining performances (London Convention Centre): Sat., June 15 - 7:00 p.m.; Sun., June 16 - 2:00 p.m.

I have seen and been a part of productions that proudly employ cross-gender casting. Much of the time, this type of casting is a result of too few men or too few women coming out for the auditions, but it is billed as being avant-garde.

Rosaline and Juliet portrays this problem in the extreme. A high school drama club wants to put on Romeo and Juliet for a drama festival because they know that even though audiences prefer comedies, judges prefer deep, meaningful angst. Furthermore one of the judges is a Shakespeare expert, and the club hopes to impress that judge. The only problem is they have no male members of the club…. until Cameron shows up, having been sent there by his guidance counselor to get some extra-curricular activity to add to his academic credentials. As luck would have it, he already knows the soliloquies.

The young woman originally cast as Rosaline/Romeo is understandably upset at losing her leading role. At the same time an awkward teen tenderness develops between Cameron and Kristin, who is cast to play Juliet. Throw in some multilingual reinterpretations of Shakespeare along with great cue-cards, and you can imagine that there were times when the audience clearly enjoyed the show.

The script has some very funny lines; it also has some wonderfully self-deprecating scenes. I laughed with great pleasure and delight at some of those scenes and exchanges. However, I also groaned (not always inwardly, unfortunately) at some of the silliness that was just too extreme for my tastes (e.g. someone with an IQ of 130 who submitted a doctoral dissertation on Romeo and Juliet to Yale University at age 11).

But most of my cringing was because of the acting and the staging. If the actors were directed to act like over-emoting awkward high schoolers, they were authentic and did the job well. The trouble was, it seemed less like directed acting and more like unpolished acting. The all-too-numerous tiny gaps made the timing drag, with the dialogue feeling forced. The over-gesturing and over-emoting was unnatural. The aimless wandering and pacing was distracting. Too much of the action took place too far upstage. The music was too loud for what was some good singing by Juliet of some pretty funny songs.

Most of the actors of the Salad Days Theatre Company clearly have some acting talent. I strongly encourage them to seek additional direction and play polishing from outsiders to develop their talents further.

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John Palmer is a former sportscaster, orchestra conductor, photographer, actor, and economist. He now is mostly retired but remains active in music, economics, and acting. He blogs at

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