note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
New Rep has a gorgeous new theater (in the brand new Arsenal Arts Complex in Watertown)---and a new take on Shakespeare for the occasion. Director Rick Lombardo mixes modern and classic for a highly charged ROMEO AND JULIET.
The masked ball (where Romeo first sets eyes on Juliet) is elegantly realized by way of Kelli Edwards’ lively choreography, by Frances Nelson McSherry’s striking masks and gowns, all set against John Hood’s clever crumbling castle ramparts. Lombardo tinkers with the Bard, as directors do, by spurring the rival gangs to fever pitch, with punk Capulets warring against flamboyant Montagues—not unlike the attention they command in ‘West Side Story.’ Much is made of the horseplay, not to mention the thrilling swordplay. Alas, Lombardo chooses to jettison [some of the] comic relief by making Juliet’s nurse (Bobbi Steinbach) yet another victim of foul play.
Lombardo takes to heart the Capulet taunt, from a bellicose Tybalt (Mark Killian) that Mercutio (Will Keary) has been “consorting” with Romeo (Lucas Hall)…and off we go on a sexually charged romp. Never have I seen so many lovely bare-chested men in one show. (Woe to the actor who hasn’t been working out!) Mercutio can hardly keep his gauzy pink shirt from slipping down his winnowed shoulders. Tybalt’s doublet/vest mysteriously unbuttons for battle revealing a carefully sculpted musculature. As you can see, I had a difficult time focusing on the “star-crossed lovers.”
Even the priest (Diego Arciniegas), who secretly marries Romeo and Juliet, was gardening without his cleric’s shirt, revealing some powerfully pristine pecs of his own. Forgive me, Father. All I kept thinking about was Noel Coward’s “Marvelous Party” where “young Bobby Carr did a stunt at the bar, with a lot of extraordinary men.” Oh dear, better save me a seat at the confessional.