The strength of the Nola Project's Shakespeare productions has been their homemade inventiveness. The company has used it wits and creativity to overcome budgetary restrictions, usually to effective results. In the production of Romeo and Juliet that opens tonight at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the cast circumvented the cost of scabbards by sheathing their swords through metal eyes clipped to their belt loops. A byproduct of this solution is a proper metal-on-metal scraping made when swords are drawn, but there was a downside. During a preview performance, Balthasar's hilt-heavy sword tilted forward and fell out, prompting the out performers to keep a hand, wrist or arm on their swords to keep them in place for the rest of the play.
This spring, the Nola Project staged A Midsummer Night's Dream in NOMA's Besthoff Sculpture Garden to great effect; this time it largely inhabits the museum's Great Hall with equal intelligence. The room's wide-open space becomes a host of settings, each made clear enough by the characters onstage and how they enter. The stairs and balcony add dramatic possibilities, used particularly effectively when Juliet (Kristin Witterschein) is on the second floor flirting with Romeo (Alex Martinez Wallace) below. The space allows her the space to move with giddy adrenaline, unable to stand still for the excitement of new love. The hall provided enough space for a dance number, a funereal platform and a sword fight or two, though occasionally the Montague posse consumed great swaths of space for little clear reason except to occupy as much of it as possible.
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