Juliet awakens to find herself among the dead. She sits within what looks like a tomb and stares at the constraining gossamer walls that enclose her insular space. A candle flickers beside her. She is not Shakespeare’s heroine however, and the setting is not the Capulets’ catacombs. This Juliet is a mother, a mother of seven to be exact, and she has been imprisoned in Romania after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. She speaks in words penned by her youngest son, to a God she fears has abandoned her. This is the premise of Andras Visky’s play Juliet, which has recently been translated into English from Romanian. The story chronicles Visky’s mother’s internal struggles during the time she spent in a prison camp and the play is structured as one long monologue directed toward God. The strikingly gorgeous and talented actress, Melissa Hawkins, plays the leading lady. Hawkins’ devotion to the text and Christopher Markle’s astute direction bring Juliet’s fragmented memories to life. Her remembrances of events seem to ebb and flow from bliss to devastation as her personal biography takes shape on stage. The Independent Theater’s tiny playing space and Terrence McClellan’s scenic design heighten the poetic realism of the piece. The lighting scheme, however, sometimes brings us out of Juliet’s reality when it flickers from light to dark at seemingly random times.
Juliet’s only major deterrent is its length. The play’s running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes, which is a long time to listen to one person speak, however, Hawkins does a great job of keeping the dialogue moving at a rapid pace. Potential viewers are encouraged to sharpen their attention spans, as Hawkins' performance is well worth the effort.