Although Shakespeare’s Romeo is 14 and Juliet 13, we soon accept Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Condola Rashad (Stick Fly, The trip to the Bountiful) as the star-crossed lovers whose tragic death brings together their feuding families.
What is unusual in this revival, directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux, is the racial difference between the couple. Interviewed on The View, Orlando said that the decision of Condola Rashad as Juliet came only after many actresses had tried out for the part rather than deciding in advance on an interracial couple to punch up the conflict between the families. Who knows? Maybe it’s true since Paris, played by Justin Guarini (American Idiot, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) is white and that is the suitor that Lord Capulet (Tony-Award winning Chuck Cooper, veteran of ten Broadway shows) tries to force Juliet to marry. What I prefer to think, and hope, is that we are coming to a time when roles aren’t given on the basis of color and that actors (and everyone else) can go as far as their talents take them.
I’ve always loved Juliet’s nurse no matter who played her, and Jayne Houdyshell (Well, Follies, Dead Accounts, The Importance of Being Earnest) made me laugh and cry with the best of them.
The set for this contemporary revival is simple, but not stark. A large wall painting of a daubed-in colorful, courtly scene worked well, especially when the nurse thought she found Juliet dead and Lady Capulet (Roslyn Ruff of Fences, The Piano Lesson, The Help) keened against it. The loft-like balcony that Romeo climbs to seduce Juliet works perfectly. And to think that Orlando Bloom, who broke his back rehearsing for Orsino in The Twelfth Night was he was in drama school, is able to slowly flip himself down from it backwards is a miracle!
The low strains of the cello, played by Tahirah Whittington, created an unmelodramtic rush of tension as the play went on.
And the use of fire symbolizing rage, eroticism, and death was hot, hot, hot.
This Romeo and Juliet speaks to us from across the centuries. Listen, see it.
I was fortunate to attend a pre-play party at The Paramount Bar & Grill http://www.nycparamount.com/dining. 235 W. 46th St. Between Broadway and 8th. Ordered a delicious dinner in a gorgeous ambiance and got a free Romeo (a bourbon drink). The Juliet was champagne-based. Another party treat was Madescasse chocolate bars. Yum. http://store.madecasse.com/ Now that’s what chocolate is supposed to taste like!
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: Beginning Friday, Sept. 20th.
Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, Thursdays at 7:00 pm., Fridays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 3:00 pm.
Tickets are available at THE RICHARD ROGERS THEATER box office (226 W. 46th Street) or at Ticketmaster.com/ 1-800-745-3000. To make it accessible to all, 100 tickets per performance will be set aside at $20 for purchase by students and educators with valid ID or students may access tickets online in advance at TIX4STUDENTS (www.tickets4students.com).