‘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)

Comments

  1. David From Canada says

    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.

  2. Rowan says

    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.

  3. Kait says

    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.

  4. David From Canada says

    @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.

  5. ActingRules says

    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.

  6. Hagatha says

    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.

  7. elon says

    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.?

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