By Daniel Skora
It’s one of the newest small theatres in the area, and though it may call itself the Little Door Theatre, its productions so far have been nothing but big at heart. On the back end of their first full season, the Little Door has performed plays by Shakespeare, Chekov, and Wilde, as well as a production of the contemporary-themed “She Kills Monsters”, a comedy about fantasy game role playing. Shannon Hurst, a graduate of Wayne State University’s Acting Program, is founder and Artistic Director and plays the role of Juliet in their current production of “Romeo and Juliet”.
The building that the Little Door Theatre in Warren resides in was, in a prior life, a police station. It has been nicely transformed into an attractive 82 seat Black Box Theatre with comfortable new chairs that, resting on appropriately angled risers, provide excellent visibility from anywhere in the house. The walls and ceilings have been completely refurbished and there’s ample room on the deep stage for a variety of scenic arrangements.
“Romeo and Juliet” is a delightful production, done in what’s become the now familiar way of combining Shakespeare’s text with contemporary costuming. The Prince and Lords Capulet and Montague are nattily attired in business suits; the majority of the rest of the characters look like they could have been plucked from a production of “West Side Story”. Hurst looks lovely in the role of Juliet, which she plays with a kind of radiant vulnerability. JM Ethridge in the role of the nurse has a way of taking command of the stage, especially in that rather bawdy scene on the streets of Verona where, on instructions from Juliet, the nurse has been asked to relay a message to Romeo. The play’s entire cast is uniformly good, featuring some who are at the beginning of their acting careers and others who have been at it a while. The cast of 14 also includes Dalton Hahn as Romeo, Jason Garza as Lord Capulet, Daniel Drobot as Mercutio, David Musselwhite as Benvolio, Todd Minnehan as Lord Montague, Dave Klecha as Prince Escalus, Rish Mitra as Tybalt, Andrew McMechan as Friar Lawrence, Tim Beson as Paris, Christi Lawson as Lady Capulet, Danielle Peck as Lady Montague, and Erica Cross as Petra.
“Romeo and Juliet” is lovingly directed by Judy Dery, a long-time favorite on local stages and the best Mrs. Fezziwig that Meadow Brook Theatre ever had. Lighting design is by David Musselwhite, sound a group effort by Shannon Hurst, Ryan Lawson, and Christi Lawson.
Life is, among other things, a gathering of memories. Here’s one I’m sure will stay with me a very long while. The lone survivor in the Little Theatre from its days as a police station is a floor-to-ceiling vault door. At one time the door opened to a safe that probably housed the usual guns and contraband. As I stood before this exquisite piece of metal admiring the workmanship that had gone into its creation, one of those unscripted moments of life took me by surprise. The audience had mostly left and a crewmember was already busy arranging the stage for the next night’s performance. When he saw my hand, in an attempt to fix in my mind the weighty beauty of such an object, brush across the dinner-plate sized wheel that opened the door after the proper combination had been entered, I heard him say “Be careful. That’s where we keep the actors who misbehave.” Stunned, and with the whimsical realization of whatever truths were inherent in his warning quickly overcoming me, I responded thusly: “Well, then I suspect the room must be awfully crowded by now” and walked away.
“Romeo and Juliet” runs through June 25th. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 1.586.344.7655, Mon. thru Thurs, 6-9p.m., Fri. & Sat. 5-8p.m., Sun. 11-2p.m. Further information is available at www.LittleDoorTheatre.com or facebook.com/LittleDoorTheatre. The Little Door Theatre is located at 21045 Van Dyke, 3 blocks north of 8 Mile in Warren.