|photo by Gerry Goodstein|
The other big woe of the show is the integration of music. Director DeLisa M. White utilizes a “chorus” to sing at various points of the production, predominantly during transitions. It’s a strong choice that assists in covering up the monotony of constantly changing scenes with a sound cue. But it also causes a plethora of problems. From a staging perspective, White keeps the trio, one of which is strongly called “The Bard”, present on stage during the bar scenes, forcing them to engage in awkward stage whispers. With a tight space to work in, it pulls focus. Yes, the trio are strong singers and lighten up the mood but you have to wonder if it’s worth it. Can you sacrifice the live music so we’re not forced to watch uncomfortable silent acting that feels like community theater? And since we’re defying space and time anyway, maybe it would have been better to have a jukebox. It would have literally had the same effect. When it comes to song selection, consistency was not present. The Beatles soundtrack, which may only have been utilized to pander to a certain audience, was the main source of evocative music but Hirschberg then randomly sprinkled in songs that ranged from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Puddle of Mudd’s “She Hates Me”. And it was completely jarring. Surly there are enough songs from the Lennon-McCartney songbook that could have sufficed. Regardless, the way Hirschberg and White incorporated the music in took away from the heart of the piece, distracting the audience from the real problems. And with the play running a little over two hours, cutting the musical moments that don’t truly further the plot will be of great assistance. Though going in a completely different directions and turning Verona Walls into a jukebox musical could be another option. There was magic on stage when Alyssa broke out into Madonna.
Lifting Verona Walls from page to stage requires a vision. With a multitude of styles and periods existing, how DeLisa M. White presented the production ultimately led to the success of the piece. Verona Walls experienced some severe pacing problems. The script reads like a Hollywood romcom but seemed to play like an indie flick. The moments with boisterous physical comedy were exactly what the play needed. Yet when things got intimate, it took a severe turn that was a little less interesting. Balancing the comedy through the romance was important. White gave herself a very tight stage in which to have her actors move. The scenic design by Connor Munion was visually pleasing, and smartly intricate, but with so many actors with nowhere to go, it caused interactions to feel unnatural. Additionally, the consistency of White’s staging was a bit problematic. Mistress Quickly’s bar at first was established in a “V” formation with a table on the stage right side. Later on when there was a split scene, that very same table was moved to stage left only for the next scene to move it back to stage right. It’s a little in the grand scheme of things but you had to wonder why. The costumes by Kimberley Jean Windbiel was a mixed bag of styles. Between Romeo’s perfectly preppy aesthetic to the chorus trio looking like they just finished their shift at the local Ren Faire, Windbiel brought exactly what Hirschberg’s script asked for. And sadly, she fell victim to the trap.
|photo by Gerry Goodstein|
There are some things you can forgive for the sake of art but the amount of questions Verona Walls causes makes you question the validity of the concept. Yes, it is entertaining and the company is efficient in bringing fun, but Verona Walls is problematic. You almost have to wonder if it's been worked into oblivion. Sometimes too much work can have the opposite affect.