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Romeo And Juliet – Review

R&J

Within the first five minutes of Romeo and Juliet the audience is treated to; a pyrotechnics show, a flying live bird, amplified kettledrums and a movie star arriving on a motorcycle. It isn’t until the arrival of the Capulets, all played to beautiful perfection, that we realize that this is a show that has something for everyone.

Under David Leveaux’s direction this Romeo and Juliet is in essence two plays. The Montagues all appear to be Caucasian and far paler in most respects to the Capulets. The Montagues all seem to be British while the Capulets are American. This blatant use of differing accents might be apt if the setting was the Revolutionary War. But the setting is undefined. There is a bit of sand and an enormous faded fresco wall with graffiti that intentionally or not evokes the opening credits of West Side Story. The costumes are mostly subdued hued flowing Eileen Fisher type garments, and some people don’t wear shoes. In short, we’re not sure exactly where and when this is taking place, but we do know that shiny modern (and loud) motorcycles have been invented already.

The duality at play goes far beyond skin tone and accents however. The actors surrounding Romeo (Orlando Bloom) seem subdued. The fight scenes are hesitant and involve little touching (as if the actors were marking the scene.) Mr. Bloom is the most physically timid and we can almost hear him count out his moves. It doesn’t make for very interesting fight scenes, and it is a bit difficult to discern who is supposed to be injured. The physical hesitation becomes even more jarring when Romeo is paired with the fluid Juliet (Condola Rashad). Her lithe youthful movements in contrast to the (significantly older) Bloom’s rigid timidity make the age difference all the more glaring. Their scenes together often shift into consecutive monologues as it’s impossible to see what’s between them. We are certain that Juliet is smitten, but are never quite sure what Romeo feels. Several times, when Mr. Bloom could be heard and understood, I found myself wondering; is he sad is he happy? The restraint of all of the Montague players is in such contrast to the bold performances of the Capulet clan. When Juliet, the nurse (Jane Houdyshell) and either parent; (Chuck Cooper) and (Roslyn Ruff) are on stage, we’re watching a different play entirely. The theatre comes alive with their modern and passionate interpretation. They are subtle and fierce and funny and wonderful.

The fresco wall moves in several ways throughout the play and makes for a simple unobtrusive backdrop. It’s a reprieve from the frequently used blasts of fire. There is a large bell hanging from the fly throughout most of the play. It’s purpose and/or symbolism is not entirely clear. The music (when not being used to demand the audience’s attention) is a lovely addition. The cellist (Tahirah Whittington) took to the stage to play during the party scene and helped to create the most dramatic and delicious moments of the production. Luckily there are enough of these exquisite scenes to satisfy those who enjoy such things. There is also plenty to make special effects fans happy. And the people who come to see a movie star stand on a stage and speak will be satisfied as well. It is an interesting balance Mr. Leveaux has achieved.

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Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Romeo and Juliet – Review

I just love a theatre festival, a wonderful alchemy of “theatre” and of “festival.”  The most fabulous of these happenings occur somewhere that is lovely all on its own (ex.: Niagra on the Lake, the Berkshires, etc.)  Add to this an actual company of creative artists and a laid back simulated outdoor performance (note: I do not enjoy theatre in the actual outdoors as I find it inconducive to subtlety) and you have the making of a very special experience.  I have seen wonderful new works premiered at festivals as well as unique interpretations of traditional works.  Directors have more artistic leeway off of the great white way, and the audience is often the beneficiary of this freedom of expression.

Last night I was mesmerized by Daniela Varon’s (dir.) interpretation of Rome and Juliet at Shakespeare & Co. (Lenox, MA.)  I don’t know if I’ve every seen a fully staged professional live production of this work.  This would explain why, for the first 30 minutes or so, I kept thinking; “This Shakespeare fellow does a wonderful interpretation of West Side Story.”

A thrust stage and a balcony (not for what you would think) were used within an inch of their life.  Many of the younger characters wove in and around the audience at times.  This device was used lightly and brilliantly and never felt contrived or desperate (in that “stand-up comic using the audience for material way.”)  Set in a non-specific time, with no video, and very minimal audio, the audience was free to project their own framework onto the story.  The costumes aided in that they were predominately all white.  The white cotton costuming provided a perfect canvas for all of the bleeding as well.  There was a colossal burst of color and extraordinary costuming for the dance at the gym masquerade ball scene.

I am hesitant to single out any of the performances as there were so many riveting and enjoyable actors.  I do feel compelled to mention that I simply could not take my eyes off of Riff Mercutio.  He was very funny and physical and flat out magnetic.  Ms. Varon directed this R&J in such a fresh and exciting manner.  I had no idea this play could be so funny.  Yes, of course it’s tragic, but some of the dialogue is extremely amusing.  I particularly enjoyed directing Juliet (Susanna Millonzi) to periodically act just like a 14 year old!

Now dear reader, if you will permit me to get meta for a moment.  I have always been schooled to understand R&J as a tale of the ultimate tragedy of warring families.  Minimally, the play is a cautionary tale of why we should not try to keep our teenagers from dating those we find undesirable.  Well call me practical penguin, but I’m now thinking it is a cautionary tale about mis-communication.  Those kids didn’t die because their families didn’t get along.  They died because Doc the friar did not get the message to Romeo in time.

Oh, and in Romeo and Juliet?  Chino dies.

Note: I found it telling that there were at least a dozen children in the audience, some barely at the multiplication table age, who sat silent and spellbound throughout the three hours.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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