There’s some really good acting going on in this Shakespeare revival, but director David Leveaux’s big directorial conceit – the Montagues (Romeo’s family) are white, and the Capulets (Juliet’s family) are black – reveals precious little, and definitely nothing new, about this classic tale.
The best acting comes from Jayne Houdyshell, ideally cast as Juliet’s nurse. She captures every comic nuance, every dark emotional shade of this complex character, and delivers it with all the zest and intelligence for which she has become known. Christian Camargo also delivers as a glam-rock Mercutio, playing the role’s queerer aspects with devilish pizzazz.
Condola Rashad makes a charming Juliet, pointing up the characters nervous flightiness to terrific effect. Orlando Bloom makes Romeo’s every phrase crystal clear – not an easy feat where this effusively eloquent character is concerned.
Leveaux’s staging however, is surprisingly anemic. Whatever other problems his off-beat production of Fiddler on the Roof had, it was at least kinetic and muscular. But, for example, the knife fights in this production come off as weirdly danger free. Sure, people die, but every single death is dispatched at warp speed. Okay, you’re dead…next! This severely lessens the impact Shakespeare clearly meant them to have.
This Romeo & Juliet is just a couple of notches above mediocre. It’s not a bad introduction to the play for the uninitiated – Shakespeare’s occasionally opaque language is for the most part delivered with a refreshing lucidity. But the thrills, danger and passion that one associates with truly great productions of this play are not much in evidence.
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