Husband, wife to portray young lovers in Bard’s play

By Josette Keelor

The Schultz Theatre in New Market will kick off its new play this weekend with William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” starring husband and wife team Chris and Beth Whitney in the title roles.

Also director, Chris Whitney said maybe it’s a little weird performing a tragedy on stage with his wife, but he has high hopes.

“I chose this play to direct it because I think it’s a very fascinating show,” he said. “I think everyone has an opinion about it, whether they like it or don’t like it, I think it’s a very unique show.”

The volunteer theater’s cast will present the original text by Shakespeare, which takes theatergoers back to 16th century Verona, Italy.

But while visitors to the theater can expect the play to unfold in the usual way, they might not realize how atypical the beloved tragedy actually is.

“Shakespeare did something that wasn’t done very often,” Whitney said. “He basically did a play that was half tragedy, half comedy.” The first half was comedy, he explained, which in 16th-century terms doesn’t mean silliness so much as characters acting unlike themselves in extreme ways. Audiences of the time would have recognized the stock characters of a typical comedy, Whitney said — like the young couple in love.

But it’s after the midpoint that things go so drastically wrong.

“I think really he was just trying to perfect his craft,” said Whitney, who teaches drama at Warren County High School.

“It’s really a standard for every single love story,” he said. “So many people borrow from it. When people think of lovers, they think of this show.”

“And this play is meant to be seen,” he added. Helping with the show’s visual portrayal are traditional, period costumes.

“One of our cast members actually built some, and since I teach at the high school I was able to borrow from that,” Whitney said.

The run time is about two and a half hours, and other lead actors are Tim Reger as Friar Laurence, T.J. Stevens as Mercutio, Michelle Reger as Lady Capulet and Jeremiah Trecola as Tibble.

Beth Whitney, who teaches music at Warren County Middle School and A.S. Rhodes Elementary in Front Royal, has turned back the clock before to play the teenage Luisa in Schultz’s “The Fantasticks” last January, but even though portraying the young Juliet might stretch her talents, her husband said their playing young lovers isn’t much of a challenge. After all, they’ve been married 11 years.

“It’s great, you don’t have to make it up,” he said. “We don’t have to work on chemistry, but I don’t know, I guess the challenge would be going back … trying to create that first love again.”

“Romeo and Juliet” will play out at The Schultz Theatre, 9357 N. Congress St., New Market, this weekend and next, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Advance tickets are $8 for students/seniors and $10 for adults, and at the door are $10 and $12. For more information, call 740-9119 or visit www.schultztheatre.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com