Review by Barb Popel
The concept underlying the script of Mercutio and Ophelia is that these 2 characters, drawn from two quite different Shakespeare plays, have run away from their destinies and met in a tavern in (I think) Rome. He hits on her, she rebuffs him, they parry words for awhile, and gradually fall in love with each other. Clever. Clever, too, is the interweaving of Shakespearean dialogue (most but not all of it is from Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, if I’m not mistaken) and lines straight from the young folks in the 21st century pub upstairs from this venue.
I have nothing but praise for the actor who plays Mercutio. Unfortunately, as is true of so many Fringe plays in Ottawa, the theatre troupe has neglected to provide a program, so I have no idea who this fine fellow is. C’mon, folks! Spring for some 1-page programs for your audience. I’m sure any print shop (or your home computer) could pump out a few hundred of them for a few bucks.
Anyway, as I was saying, Mercutio speaks his lines trippingly and sincerely, and has no problem switching to Elizabethean English.
Not so, unfortunately, for the actress playing Ophelia. She looks right for the part – a delicate little redhead – but in her longer speeches she sounds as if she’s memorized the words and is now parroting them back to us, keeping in mind the director’s instructions.
Then there’s the third character, who in the last scene of the play we discover is Benvolio, a minor character from Romeo and Juliet who has tracked down Mercutio to convince him to come back to Verona and defend Romeo from the murderous intentions of Tybalt. This scene works pretty well. Trouble is, the author/director, Nicholas Amott, has brought Benvolio on stage in the first scene without introducing him – he’s just an unnamed guy searching for another unnamed but very brave guy whom we deduce (look at the name of the play!) is Mercutio. During the first scene, neither my friend nor I could figure out who this character was – Shakespeare? Romeo? (the latter somewhat implausible because he’s a big lumpish fellow…not at all a Romeo type). The next scene is in the tavern. There, Mercutio explains, in a speech which flows from his conversation with Ophelia, is the reason he has fled Verona and the senseless warfare between the Montagues and the Capulets. The first scene, in particular, cries out for the attentions of a dramaturge.
The other irritating thing – and it’s minor – is that the director or stage manager has decided to jam a lot of the venue’s extra furniture into the stage area. Almost none of it is used by the characters, and it gives them almost no space in which to move (it’s a really tiny venue). A couple of times they even have to move a heavy table and some chairs, noisily dragging them around. Annoying and distracting for both the audience and, I suspect, the actors. This blocking problem would be easy to fix… Let’s hope someone from the troupe reads this review and does so during the run.
This performance is worth seeing. The play shows promise as one that could be polished into an even better play, especially for actors in their late teens and twenties. And if I can find out who the actor playing Mercutio is, I’d seek him out in other plays, too.
Mercutio and Ophelia by Nicholas Amott, is playing at BYOV B – the basement of The Royal Oak Pub (161 Laurier Ave. East) on Saturday June 16 at 7:30 pm, Sunday June 17 at 6:30 pm, Tuesday June 19 at 9:00, Wednesday June 20 at 9:00 pm, Thursday June 21 at 9:00 pm, Friday June 22 at 9:00 pm, Saturday June 23 at 3:00pm and 9:00pm, and Sunday June 24 at 7:30.