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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
ROMEO & JULIET
at Park Avenue Armory

A PLAGUE ON BOTH THEIR HOUSES
By MATT WINDMAN

  Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale/ Ph: Stephanie Berger

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is generally not associated with giant flames that erupt out of the street at random, Romeo riding a bicycle, an orgy set to African music and Juliet twirling a lariat out of boredom. But those are just a few of the gimmicks surrounding Rupert Goold’s new intriguing but puzzling and overblown production, which marks the second production by the Royal Shakespeare Company to open at the Park Avenue Armory. Goold previously directed Patrick Stewart in Macbeth, which came to Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2008 and then transferred to Broadway.

His staging tries to take place in both the past and present at once. It begins with a modern-day youth on an audio-guided tour of what appears to be a medieval Italian church. This turns out to be Romeo. Unlike the other Capulets and Montagues, he wears a hoodie, jeans and Doc Martens. He even shows off pics of his former love Rosalind with a digital camera.

The same concept applies to Juliet, thus separating them from everyone else. And after their deaths, it inexplicably becomes reversed and their parents appear in modern dress.

Goold appears to have little interest in the play itself, stuffing it instead with overdone displays of violence, fire and weird costume juxtapositions. An early street fight is taken to such a violent extreme that it nearly ends in a stake burning. His most credible visual contribution lies in emphasizing the Gothic church settings and related religious imagery.

Many of the performances also prove to be wildly inappropriate. Mariah Gale portrays Juliet as alternatively bored, quirky and screaming. As Mercutio, Jonjo O’Neill overplays the sexual overtones of his lines beyond recognition or the limits of good taste.

On the other hand, Sam Troughton makes for a credibly wild Romeo who is ecstatic and on a blazing emotional high. Unfortunately, Troughton injured his knee at Tuesday afternoon’s performance and had to be immediately replaced by an understudy.

Noma Dumezweni does provide a very interesting reinvention of the Nurse. Rather than being overweight, frumpy and annoying, Dumezweni is tall and statuesque. This brings an unusual dimension to her scenes with Juliet, since it would now appear that the Nurse has a strong sexual history and may have had a Romeo or two on her balcony in her day.

 


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