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‘Romeo and Juliet’ Starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad Opens On Broadway: REVIEW

RJ 2

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Stylish pyrotechnics, cinematic scoring, and heavy make-out sessions don’t much compensate for the lack of passion (and often, sense) in director David Leveaux’s uneven production of Romeo and Juliet, which opened on Broadway last week at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

RJ 1Starring film heartthrob Orlando Bloom as a not-so-young Romeo and two-time Tony nominee Condola Rashad as Juliet, Leveaux’s production separates the Montague and Capulet families along racial lines.  But, aside from familial differences already evident in Shakespeare’s text—the young (in this case, black) Capulet men have hotter tempers, while their (white) Montague rivals are more into homosocial antics—the production has nothing particularly interesting to say about race or racial politics.

The show’s biggest marquis draw also happens to be its greatest weakness. From the moment he rides on stage on a motorcycle and removes his helmet to star applause (as clumsy an entrance as it is derivative of Baz Luhrman’s ubiquitous 90s film), Bloom struggles with Shakespeare’s language such that it often falls flat. Though he brings with him a certain star quality (without making sense of the play’s poetry), building a character and forming chemistry with others proves difficult.

Ms. Rashad’s wide-eyed Juliet has an emotional transparency that is by contrast refreshing and endearing, particularly in a wonderfully played balcony scene. It’s a quality that sometimes works against her when the action turns to matters of life or death, though the production rarely succeeds in raising the stakes quite that high.

RJ 3As for that heavy make out session—it dominates the lovers’ first meeting, eating up more stage time than their rushed poetic exchange and setting the tone for a relationship that feels more like an ill-advised one-night stand than a tale of star-crossed love. Stage combat that seems more like dance than the result of blind rage likewise keeps the emotional stakes simmering on low.   

With the surprising exception of Brent Carver, whose innocuous Friar Laurence makes it tempting to let fate off the hook and pin the blame on him, the rest of the company is mostly quite strong. Highlights include Roslyn Ruff’s visceral performance as an equally icy and emotional Lady Capulet, and Jayne Houdyshell’s delightful and down-to-earth turn as Juliet’s Nurse. Christian Camargo’s Mick Jagger Mercutio fits well with the production’s vaguely rock-n-roll aesthetic, though at times he seems to be rushing through some of his best material. 

RJ 4Perhaps because the rival families are distinguished by their skin color, costumes in drab, muted colors by Fabio Toblini are worn by all, in various 90s silhouettes. A larger than life pre-Renaissance Italian style fresco occupies the wall of Jesse Poleshuck’s otherwise simple set, which is at times unfortunately the most compelling thing to look at on stage.  

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:carol rosegg, richard termine)

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Comments

  1. The interracial thing has been worn out, period. How about 2 Romeos, or 2 Juliets?
    Or 2 Native American Indians playing the lead roles?
    As it is, not original at all.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Sep 27, 2013 10:46:12 AM


  2. How tiresome.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Sep 27, 2013 10:55:03 AM


  3. David From Canada - Well at least we can give them credit for thrift; what with them using leftover costumes and sets from Grease

    Posted by: Hagatha | Sep 27, 2013 10:56:20 AM


  4. Oh dear. I'm not a major fan of theater BUT as an art lover etc I understand and am aware of it's history. And boy it must be so depressing for any theater lover to see Orlando Bloom in Broadway.

    Also I my mistaken to think that this is not like Romeo and Juliet but more like West Side story?

    I got that they really wanted to do a play with at least more then one black person in Broadway but unfortunately unless it's done genuinely, it ends up falling flat and stereotyped.

    Posted by: Rowan | Sep 27, 2013 11:07:15 AM


  5. Interracial R&J? How PC. And boring.

    Posted by: NYCer | Sep 27, 2013 11:07:38 AM


  6. What made Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting (sp?) so endearing is that they were 16 and 14. Who cares about a middle aged love spat.

    Posted by: MIke | Sep 27, 2013 12:00:01 PM


  7. no thank you.

    Posted by: Truthiness | Sep 27, 2013 12:49:01 PM


  8. Funny. Another critic praised Orlando Bloom's take on the Shakespearean language that showed his classic studies background. It just proves that "critics" are just people like you and me, they don't "critic" they just praise or bash stuff they loved or hated.

    Posted by: Kait | Sep 27, 2013 2:08:36 PM


  9. I'm with Mike, whatever the re-imagining, the element of all-consuming love and passion because they are teenagers is key, at least for me.

    Posted by: Rexford | Sep 27, 2013 2:30:22 PM


  10. I wonder if it has production numbers and big hats.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Sep 27, 2013 3:09:41 PM


  11. Dateline: 2001
    Orlando Bloom cannot act his way out of wet paper bag.

    And yet in 2013, we are surprised that he can't carry a Shakespeare tragedy?

    Posted by: dws | Sep 27, 2013 3:33:17 PM


  12. Orlando Bloom is 36, making him old enough to be Romeo's dad.

    Posted by: Rob Tisinai | Sep 27, 2013 3:48:44 PM


  13. @Rob Tisinai: Orlando Bloom may be 36, but he looks quite a bit younger, perhaps about 25, and he has the acting abilities of a 12 year old, so somehow it all works out.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Sep 27, 2013 4:01:06 PM


  14. Bloom is a great actor and he carries the Bard's language very well. Unlike the author of this article who missed the whole point. FYI: Bloom is a classically trained actor and he delivers the character perfectly. I haven't seen a better Romeo in ages. The age is irrelevant on stage when the actor looks as young as Bloom does. Funny how the "critics" that don't know the history and the rules of the theatre stage are trying to write a review. More education and knowledge on the subject will be helpful. In the case of this review it's just "I don't like it because my taste is different." And, that does not have anything to do with the real theatre review.
    I saw the play and I saw that Bloom is perfect as Romeo. I have been working on stage enough to see how beautifully he works. His haters really need to get over the jealousy and stop pretending that they actually understand anything about acting. Stick to the comics and Bollywood movies, kids. Everything is understandable there. LOL.

    Posted by: ActingRules | Sep 27, 2013 5:13:47 PM


  15. Mike is right. Did the producers even bother to read the play?

    Posted by: Randy | Sep 27, 2013 6:13:07 PM


  16. I was with you right to the end ACTINGRULES. Ending with an LOL? Did you really laugh out loud after that rant? LOL.

    Posted by: Tristram | Sep 27, 2013 9:18:06 PM


  17. Really, Mr. Kumar. I would have thought that a legitimate theatre reviewer would know the difference between a "marquis" and a "marquee."

    Posted by: Larry McD | Sep 28, 2013 12:12:13 AM


  18. ACTINGRULES - I so love being talked down to by the help. The reason that you will never be a success in theater is that you think it's art. It isn't. It's entertainment and everyone is a critic. Not only are they entitled to their opinions, but that thing in their hip pocket determines whether you will eat and sleep with a roof over your head when you are too old to pick up tricks.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Sep 28, 2013 11:42:04 AM


  19. Movieclips just put up four trailers for the new film adaptation of Romeo & Juliet coming shortly:

    http://movieclipsblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/romeo-and-juliet-4-new-clips-2-featurettes/

    Posted by: Rexford | Sep 28, 2013 5:13:47 PM


  20. The help must have really gotten to Hagatha for Hagatha to try to do a smackdown that just sounded like immature drivel.

    Posted by: Gabe R L | Sep 28, 2013 9:40:28 PM


  21. You know what, with exception of a couple of you commentators, I must say yall are some sorry ass haters. Hmm. Pitiful.

    Posted by: Skye | Oct 1, 2013 12:22:11 AM


  22. No David, the IR thing has not worn out. Your problem is that you don want to see a mixed couple playing the part. Sure, there is nothing wrong with having to deal with two native Americans and two gay people play the role.How ever, judging by your letter, if you would have written this play, the gays and the NAs would still be of the same race regardless of their sexual orientation and race. You just use these two groups just to keep away from the mixed race status of the play.Who do you think you're fooling.?

    Posted by: elon | Oct 27, 2013 2:44:16 PM


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