SUSSEX, N.J.– “For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her
Romeo.” So ends Shakespeare’s most admired and possibly most commonly
produced play. But there is nothing common about Tri-State Actors Theater’s
production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Director Paul Meacham and his designers have spent a great deal of time on detail.
The set is not only functional but also cleverly constructed.Against a permanent
backdrop, the same four set pieces are moved  into numerous configurations by
the cast at lightning speed. One waits eagerly to see the new design in which the
pieces have been set. The three factions in the play — the Capulets, the Montagues
and the Prince’s family — are all recognized by  the brilliant signature colors that each
family wears.This is another clever device to help the audience follow the loyalties that
John Hastie(Romeo)/ Lauren   are so important to the drama.
As the star-crossed lovers, John Hastie (Romeo) and Lauren Devore (Juliet) are credible and believable.
Their strong acting abilities are enhanced by the fact that they are teenagers.This brings an added element to
their portrayal that is often lacking with mature performers in these roles.Romeo and Juliet were young,
immature and, above all, reckless. The youthful enthusiasm and energy of Hastie and, in particular, Devore
breathe new life into these characters.

They are supported by other intense performers such as Patrick McAndrew (Benvolio), Kevin Sebastian
(Tybalt) and Johnathan Holtzman (Mercutio).These young men with the added talent of Hastie make the
pivotal fight scene memorable. Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, comes to call out Romeo for crashing the Capulets’
party. Romeo refuses to fight, as he and Juliet have secretly wed, making Tybalt part of Romeo’s family.
Mercutio takes up the challenge in an exhilarating, swashbuckling scene which ends with Mercutio’s dying
curse, “A plague on both your houses!” Romeo is moved to vengeance where he fights Tybalt and slays him.
As the adults counsel and try to guide the pair, the ultimate tragedy of their fate unfolds.

Ted Odell as the Prince fittingly portrays the person who must quell the unrest in his city and control the hot
tempers of the warring families. Lord and Lady Capulet, as strongly portrayed by Robert M. Hefley and
Jenelle Sosa, are harsh and, in the case of Hefley, vicious toward their daughter. They seem to care more
about making an advantageous marriage for her with Paris (Sam Parrott). When they find Juliet dead (first by
trickery and last by her own hand), one feels little sympathy for them.

The adult that does deserve one’s compassion is Juliet’s Nurse (Mary Ann Hay). Her deep love and heart-
wrenching sorrow at Juliet’s death are palpable and moving. Hay also does a credible turn in the Nurse’s
comic scenes.

A pleasant surprise is Ian Heitzman’s portrayal of Friar Lawrence. Heitzman is younger than expected for this
role and as such brings a more contemporary interpretation. He no longer is the older, wiser, father confessor
trying to bring the families together. Heitzman shows him to be rational but adds a touch of romantic whimsy
to his scheming assistance, which leads the pair down a path of folly. Heitzman crafts a genuinely new Friar.

If you have never seen “Romeo and Juliet,” now is the time. This production is unique and different, almost
as if Shakespeare just wrote it or revised it.