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REVIEW: Sounds and Sweet Airs at the Genesius Guild

A few years ago Genesius Guild launched an initiative to include a greater number of teenagers in its productions. The purpose was twofold. Teens would gain experience acting in the classics along with seasoned adults and the Guild could bolster its company of actors. It was a win/win idea. This transitioned to a now all teen production each summer.

This summer’s offering with an all teen cast is Guild founder Don Wooten’s compilation of individual Shakespearean dialogue and some of the most iconic of the Bard’s soliloquys arranged by themes titled Sounds and Sweet Airs. This was perhaps not the best choice. I don’t think teens have much or perhaps any exposure to Shakespeare in school these days; they may have only studied one script and then only in an Advanced Placement English class.

This cast, because of the arbitrary arrangement of speeches, is only identified as Player 1 through 6. They are: David, Rory, and Christian Wellner, Isabelle and Lillian Estes, Geno DelPreore, and James Campbell. Directing credits go to Jeff Coussens with assistance from Liz Sager and Marc Nelson.

These teens put in a lot of effort to present this show. They likely have not read nor seen performed most, if not all, of the plays from which these speeches were excerpted; accordingly, they were hobbled from imbuing much life into their characters’ speeches. Absent that knowledge, with a few exceptions, this was more a recitation than a performance. They would have benefited from receiving input on the background of the plays in general and, specifically, how their characters fit into the action. They would also have profited from coaching on their projection. It was difficult to hear them even from the first row.

An element they employed that I liked, and what was helpful, was the use of placards carried across the stage at the introduction to the next theme.

 The Guild has been using some unique set painting this season and this show was no exception. The set has been painted with some very well done abstract Elizabethan cottages, so a big shout-out goes to Set Designer Miranda Callahan and whoever may have assisted with the painting. A nice touch in this show was adding artificial topiaries to dress the set. However, they should lose the out-of-place flowers randomly stuck into them. Instead, flower pots could be placed by the topiaries that would achieve the splash of color for which they were apparently trying.

Attendance was low on opening night likely because they were competing with John Deere Classic festivities and Music Guild’s opening of Newsies. This show only runs about an hour, so this is a great chance for a brief introduction to some of the greatest snippets of the Bard’s writing.

Sounds and Sweet Airs continues on the Don Wooten stage at Lincoln Park located at 38th Street and 11th Avenue in Rock Island, Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14 at 7:00 p.m.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.