Love has undoubtedly made many feel like “fortune’s fool.” But perhaps none more so than Romeo in his short-lived marriage to the young Juliet.

The Portland Players have opened a spirited production of the Shakespeare play about those famous star-crossed lovers. Complete with all the richly articulated passion, dashing sword play and ribald comic interludes that have long made the play one of the Bard’s most popular, this nearly three-hour “Romeo & Juliet” offers a theatrical abundance.

Sean Senior makes for a sturdy presence as Romeo, whose attraction to Juliet has him both climbing to her balcony and descending to her crypt in the course of a few whirlwind days. Senior was effective at combining his more lengthy lines, particularly in his soliloquies, with both impulsive movement and a sturdy stance that contrasted his character’s weaknesses and strengths as his Romeo matures too quickly for his own good.

The diminutive Emma Payton Cooper gave her Juliet a youthful awe at her own growing passion. She established both the fragile and forthright side of a teen who could prove to be such an irresistible romantic match even for a suitor from a clan her family opposes. Cooper’s performance gave credence to those who see Juliet as the most interesting character in the play.

The minimal set, defined by a wooden balcony structure at one end and a series of pedestals for sitting or standing at the other, is effectively lit to draw the eye. The variety of period costumes also enrich the production, as do the dance and fight sequences, which provide energy and a bit of relief from the complexities of the language.

Ostensibly a tragedy, there’s a good deal of comedy to be found in the play, and the obviously inspired players in South Portland, under the direction of Stacey Koloski, made the most of it while revealing distinctive approaches.

Meredythe Dehne Lindsey’s quick-witted Mercutio spun out lengthy lampoons, spiced with bawdy imaginings, while Allison McCann’s mischievous nurse teased Juliet to distraction in a couple of telling scenes. Renee Myhaver made for an infectiously jovial Benvolio.

Daniel Bullard, MJ Emerson, Brandon Johnson, Sarah Kennedy, Johnny Speckman and Charlie Marenghi were among a well-prepared cast that served up the Bard’s poetic language with feeling on opening night.

As things went bad for the lovers, Friar Lawrence’s (David Heath) contrasting of “grace and rude will” inevitably led the noble Prince (Karl Livonius) to encourage the audience to “have more talk of these sad things.”

The Portland players are definitely furthering the conversation with this fine production.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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