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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Richard Rodgers


  Roslyn Ruff, Condola Rashad and Jane Houdyshell/ Ph: Richard Termine

Boasting one of the most basic, yet catchiest plots of all time, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet really doesn’t need any bells and whistles. It certainly doesn’t need a motorcycle, which director David Leveaux has movie star Orlando Bloom (at 36, a rather mature Romeo) ride in on – the better to up the bad-boy glam factor, presumably. The only real signal that his shiny hog sends is that there’s a dearth of imagination at play here. We’ve seen scores of Romeos, transposed hither and yon, throughout time and space; do we really need this cheap-shot shorthand for Wild One?

Actually, Bloom could use the boost. His Romeo plods. Christian Camargo, as the volatile jokester Mercutio, Romeo’s partner in heedless youth, outshines him at every turn. Moreover, this Romeo’s interactions with Juliet (lovely Condola Rashad, conveying a very tender age) have the heat of a middling blind date. Theirs seems a very PG relationship. There’s no hint of a hastily made marriage bed and its aftermath. It’s all words, words, words – lovely words, familiar words, but empty words with nary a hint of flesh.

Rashad makes an intriguingly cerebral Juliet. As she endlessly twists a piece of string left over from a party balloon, you can see her trying to tease out the logic of her situation – a task beyond the ratiocinative capacity of her adolescent brain. Rashad also exhibits an instinctive physicality. As the Nurse (wonderfully grounded Jane Houdyshell) laments the long-ago loss of her own daughter, Susan – the child whose place Juliet has assumed – Rashad’s fingers reach out in unspoken comfort. When Juliet says of marriage, “It’s an honour that I dream not of,” she appears distracted and taken by surprise, not rebellious (the typical reading). Somehow, despite two fearsomely emotive parents (Chuck Cooper and Roslyn Ruff, both better suited to Macbeth), this Juliet remains a young, untested fledgling – one not yet ready to take to the skies, let alone feather her own nest.

Her downfall comes quickly, thanks to some staggeringly abrupt abridgments toward the end of this tale of concatenating woes.

Jesse Poelshuck’s striking design – columnar firewalls flanking vaguely Etruscan frescos tagged with graffiti – attempts to make up with flash the lack of onstage heat.


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