Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

This review is of The Acting Company & The Guthrie Theater's Romeo and Juliet at the Annenberg Center on Penn's Campus.

Last night, we made the HUGE mistake of attending Romeo and Juliet performed at the Annenberg Theatre here on campus. I have to admit, like most Shakespeare, I have a soft spot for this play. We read it in high school, and I remember the satisfaction in finally being able to understand it after long classroom discussions. Both Alex and I were understandably brain dead after such a terrible day, but we both thought that the last Shakespeare show we had seen had been so amazingly good, that we might want to see this show. The company putting on the show was billed as "Tony Award Winning", so I thought it couldn't be bad...However, we the theatre kept sending out ads by email on discounted tickets, special "meet & greets" with the actors and other incentives to come see the show. I received a phone call that my tickets had been majically upgraded from the balcony to the orchestra section (when does THAT ever happen?). And the lobby was eerily quiet when we arrived for the show - the audience seating was nowhere near full. The show was billed as "modern", or as "trying to teach a new generation about Shakespeare". OK....I'm not sure what that means, but considering I was probably one of the few people who enjoyed Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, I thought that this billing couldn't be a bad thing, right? The show started with the traditional dialogue,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean."

I was so excited to hear that opening - brought back so many memories. However, all of the cast was dressed in, say, late 1800s-ish formal wear. Not super modern, right? And how would that costuming appeal to "a new generation"? OK, well, maybe I'm being too picky. No, wait, it seems the men are dressed in linen suits that are wrinkled. The womens' outfits fit oddly. As in, maybe they were padded or something (not like they are wearing a bustle, but perhaps an odd corset? Huh. That seems weird. Right? I mean, costumes made out of linen seem like a really bad idea, but most backstage areas have garment steamers, so that should have been taken out right away. And any stage production (especially, I would imagine, a "Tony Award Winning one) would have a tailor to fit costumes to the actors, right? And then the dialogue started. There is something to say for Shakespeare. He really knew what he was doing. I mean, the words and poetry are so beautiful, even with horrible actors saying the lines. It literally sounded like amateur hour, perhaps a show put on by the local high school or junior high. Romeo was whiny and ridiculous, not overly dreamy and romantic. Juliet had a pitch to her voice that was unbelievably annoying. I think she was trying to "project", but just ended up shouting. The Nurse, who is somewhat of a comic relief, was (holy lord) shouting on the top of her lungs. Mercutio was (methinks) trying to portray a "gangster type" as well as a "comic type" as well as a "pimp type". It was a little much. There was a guy who was wearing sunglasses (perhaps for youth appeal?) and appeared drunk most of the time - oh, and had no lines. Odd. The dialogue was said wrong. Things like "silly girl" were added to sonnets. There were pelvic thrusts involved, and several mocking gestures to boners. I realize that Shakespeare was written for the proletariat, and that such writing was crude in manner and suggestive in dialogue. But, I much more appreciate subtlety than outright crudeness, especially at a play billed to be for the "younger generation". I could go on and on, I am sure. But I will call it at that.
Needless to say, we left at intermission, along with, as far as I can tell, half of the audience (which was not a big audience to begin with). I am not sure what type of acting is required to act Shakespeare, but I feel that, in general, it requires real talent. These sad amateurs might have been wonderful at a more "modern" play (hardy-har-har), but for this, lacked real talent and understanding of what the words and poetry are trying to portray. Romeo and Juliet had no chemistry. There was no reason for them to be together, and Juliet was portrayed as a child, running and skipping about in mock high-heels. Its unfortunate that this was such a bad show. The first bad show we've seen at this theatre in over two years. Just, whatever you do, don't go see this show.

1 comment:

Gerry said...

I guess you didn't agree with the New York Times whose critic called this production, "delightful and exhilarating ... As Juliet, Ms Esposito is never less than appealing."