Teen drama, romance captured by ‘best Juliet’ with fantastic cast and crew

By JULIE MCHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

August 31, 2017

JJ Gatesman as Romeo and Kara Penrose as Juliet in SummerStage’s production of “Romeo & Juliet.”
Lake Life Photography


TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Despite the chilly night, the production of “Romeo & Juliet,” surely one of Shakespeare’s favorite creations, kept us enthralled.

The ease with which most of the actors delivered their lines was impressive. They conveyed the meaning behind the sometimes-difficult words with careful enunciation and sensitive interpretation, no easy task.

The story of Romeo and Juliet never fails to intrigue. It is the ultimate expression of spontaneous, brash and often rash young love. It also conveys the costly repercussions of hateful divisions between families, ethnic groups and even countries. The story has been translated into film, opera, ballet and also into a more modern version in the beautiful “West Side Story,” thanks to the genius of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

Many pay for their attempts to aid or hinder this young couple’s union. The lovers perhaps suffer the most, but Juliet’s devoted nurse, the helpful Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet’s parents, and rivals on both sides of the Montague-Capulet feud suffer anguish or death as well.

Kara Penrose was an absolutely breathtaking Juliet. Her enactment of the young, impetuous, romantic teenager was perfect, the best I’ve ever seen. Romeo, played by JJ Gatesman, also was credible in his portrayal of anguish and longing. The balcony scene was especially beautifully executed.

Among the other outstanding members of the cast, Nicholas Callan Haubner must be mentioned in his rendering of Mercutio. I have never seen Haubner in any role that he hasn’t aced. Juliet’s father was also well-delineated by James Ryan, who was especially memorable in his scene where he castigated his young daughter for her refusal to marry Paris. It was powerful, but painful to watch. We’ve probably all experienced a parental-child conflict from one or the other or both sides.

Lastly, Josh Scheibe as the kindly friar and Victoria Hudziak as the helpful nurse were both outstanding. I even liked Lucas Nelson in his dual roles as Peter and the apothecary. It takes some skill to make cameo roles memorable.

The set design was simple, but very effective, courtesy of designer Christopher Kurtz. The scenes could easily be changed without breaking the flow of the action. Costume designer Dana Brzezinski did a good job of modernizing the original time frame, and light and sound designer Chris Meissner contributed his touches that enhanced the story as well.

Kudos to all the cast and crew, but special praise to director Dustin J. Martin for assembling such a talented group of collaborators.

Together, SummerStage provided a delightful experience for us. Shakespeare has again given us food for thought and hours of enjoyment, and this particular group of dramatic artists, a night to remember.

“Romeo & Juliet”

The tragedy runs through Sept. 9 at the SummerStage Theatre, N846 Highway C, in the Town of Delafield. Call 262-337-1560 or visit