×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Young lovers make out okay, but the poetry suffers in this busy revival

With:

Orlando Bloom, Condola Rashad, Brent Carver, Jayne Houdyshell, Chuck Cooper, Christian Camargo, Roslyn Ruff, Conrad Kemp, Corey Hawkins, Justin Guarini. With Donte Bonner, Joe Carroll, Don Guillory, Sheria Irving, Maurice Jones, Geoffrey Owens, Spencer Plachy, Michael Rudko, Tracy Sallows, Thomas Schall, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Nance Williamson.

The kids are all right.  That’s the takeaway from “Romeo and Juliet,” with movie heartthrob Orlando Bloom and ingenue stunner Condola Rashad as Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers.  The interracial casting of the feuding Montague and Capulet clans sounds bold, but has surprisingly little dramatic impact.  The tragedy also survives its gimmicky update to modern-ish times.   Bottom line: This enduring love story stands or falls on the appeal of its lovers, and the young stars bring a sweet passion — if no ear whatsoever for romantic poetry — to their immortal roles.  

Helmer David Leveaux (“Nine”) appears to have gone out of his way to disguise the fact that this is (horrors!) a 16th-century Elizabethan drama and the characters are speaking (eek!) blank verse.

The most distracting feature of Jesse Poleshuck’s set design is the huge metal bell with the aggressively loud tone that hangs just above the actors’ heads.  The sizzling flames that periodically shoot across the stage and streak up vertical rods are also hard to ignore.  A giant mural in the style of Duccio, depicting stern-faced Renaissance figures in stark profile, is actually quite wonderful — except for the steel pegs that turn it into a climbing wall for wanton youth with nothing better to do.

Some of the gimmicky staging, although arbitrary, is harmless:  Romeo makes his noisy entrance on a beast of a motorcycle.  Juliet delivers a pensive soliloquy from her precarious seat on a swing.  Juliet’s nurse wheels a bicycle to her meeting with Romeo.  The Capulets don bizarre masks and perform a primitive dance at their elegant ball.  Juliet’s bier is lifted from the family crypt and winched up to the rafters.

Popular on Variety

Real damage is done, though, in the balcony scenes, in which the traditional Juliet balcony is replaced by a rough wooden platform that resembles a gangplank.  To their great credit, Bloom and Rashad stay focused and manage to convince us that the young lovers only have eyes for each other.  This Romeo and Juliet touch a lot and kiss as though they mean it.  But more than passion, it’s the joyous sense of discovery that makes their love scenes so lovely — and that intimacy is precisely what’s compromised by all the running and leaping and jumping and other jittery movement.

Whenever action is actually called for, as it surely is in the street brawls between the warring Montagues and Capulets, fight director Thomas Schall takes care of business with some fast footwork and tricky swordplay.  But when there’s no obvious need for it, this relentless physicality takes a toll on the language of the play, which the younger members of the company don’t seem to trust, and only Brent Carver, as Friar Laurence, seems to savor.

Christian Camargo cuts a fine figure as the irrepressible Mercutio, but the way he runs from the voluptuous images in his Queen Mab speech, you’d think they were killer bees.  Once poetry is off the table, everyone seems to breathe easier.  Chuck Cooper can fling his verbal thunderbolts as the powerful patriarch of the Capulet clan, and Roslyn Ruff can be as fierce as she likes as Lady Capulet.  And since nobody expects Juliet’s nurse to spout blank verse, Jayne Houdyshell can be down-to-earth and kind of funny in this warm maternal role.

The ones who really suffer from this strange resistance to Shakespeare’s lyricism are Bloom and Rashad, who do good work when they’re not hanging from a scaffold or scaling a wall, and deserve a better chance.

Broadway Review: 'Romeo and Juliet'

Richard Rodgers Theater; 1200 seats; $145 top.  Opened Sept. 19, 20013.  Reviewed Sept. 14.  Running time:  TWO HOURS, 15 MIN.

Production:

A presentation by Susan Bristow, James L. Nederlander, Terry Allen Kramer, Merritt Forrest Baer, Paula Marie Black, Stephen C. Byrd, Alia Jones Harvey, Jon B. Platt, Stewart F. Lane / Bonnie Comley, in association with Manny Bello, Peter May, Douglas Smith, Jonathan M. Tisch, of a play in two acts by William Shakespeare.  

Creative:

Directed by David Leveaux.  Sets, Jesse Poleshuck; costumes, Fabio Toblini; lighting, David Weiner; original music & sound, David Van Tieghem; hair, David Brian Brown; fight direction, Thomas Schall; production stage manager, Kristen Harris.

Cast:

Orlando Bloom, Condola Rashad, Brent Carver, Jayne Houdyshell, Chuck Cooper, Christian Camargo, Roslyn Ruff, Conrad Kemp, Corey Hawkins, Justin Guarini. With Donte Bonner, Joe Carroll, Don Guillory, Sheria Irving, Maurice Jones, Geoffrey Owens, Spencer Plachy, Michael Rudko, Tracy Sallows, Thomas Schall, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Nance Williamson.

More Legit

  • The Thin Place review

    'The Thin Place': Theater Review

    I can’t resist: “The Thin Place” is a thin play. But before it drifts away into the eternal empyrean, this slender drama by Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “Hillary and Clinton”) tells a beguiling ghost story. Well, not exactly a ghost story, but the story of a beguiling haunting that may or may [...]

  • The Ocean at the End of

    'The Ocean at the End of the Lane': Theater Review

    Is Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” a story of childhood for adults or an adult view of the world for children? As director Katy Rudd’s astonishingly theatrical production of Joel Horwood’s adaptation resoundingly proves, the answer is: Both. Although wisely recommended for audiences above the age of twelve – the [...]

  • Warner Bros. Pictures trailer launch event

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu Tease 'In the Heights' Movie

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Jon M. Chu and star Anthony Ramos took the train to the top of the world to offer a sneak peek of “In the Heights,” Warner Bros.’ big-screen adaptation of Miranda’s (other) hit musical. “I’m thrilled we’re here, and I’m thrilled we’re uptown,” Miranda rhapsodized to a packed crowd at a cozy [...]

  • Lucas Hnath

    Listen: Lucas Hnath's Own Play Gives Him Nightmares

    Tony-nominated playwright Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”) has two shows in New York this season: a monologue based on the real-life experiences of his mother, and a ghost story. One of them gave him nightmares — but it wasn’t the ghost story. Listen to this week’s podcast below: He explained why on the [...]

  • Greater Clements review

    'Greater Clements': Theater Review

    The American Dream and all of its values have taken quite a beating lately. Director and screenwriter Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” Bruce Springsteen’s recent “Western Stars” album, even Ralph Lauren in the documentary “Very Ralph” show us how this country and all of its totems and merits have gone asunder. No dreams are more crushed, [...]

  • Harry Connick Jr Walk of Fame

    Harry Connick Jr. on Returning to Broadway

    Harry Connick Jr. is headed back to Broadway with a three-week limited engagement celebration of legendary songwriter Cole Porter. The actor and musician came up with the concept for the show and is also directing. “I love Broadway and if I had two careers one of them would be only Broadway just because I love [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content