note: entire contents copyleft 2005 by Will Stackman
Reviewed by Will Stackman
Since a number of reviews, including my own at ON THE AISLE have come out, some response and additional comment seems in order. Casting the leads in "Romeo & Juliet", like finding an actor fully capable of playing Hamlet is a dilemma for today's directors. Actors experienced enough to get all the glory out of the verse are usually too old to play a pair of teenage lovers. The parts were written for two boys trained solely in this form, one young enough so his voice had not changed, the other probably just past puberty, both experienced Elizabethan actors. In a sense, this play was the Bard's answer to his old friend Jonson's working with the childrens companies which were all the rage at the time. Rick Lombardo has done very well with his two young professionals, who've found ways to conjure up the star-crossed lovers and make their juvenile passion believable and their versifying creditable. Lucas Hall and Jennifer Lafleur manage sound very much like young romantics who don't quite understand the dangers their flights of fancy have led them into. This adds to the poignancy of their fate.
Moreover, this isn't just a play about two youngsters. It's about the dissolution of civil society which makes their tragedy too likely. Joe Plummer is a masterful Mercutio, not just for his rapturous imagination and his swordsmanship, but because his characterization reveals the disaffection the city's youth has for their society. Though a member of Verona's ruling family, he's taken sides with the Montagues and helps stir up trouble with their rivals, the Capulets, mostly because of his disdain for Tybalt, a cousin in that house. In a sense, Mercutio's recklessness, which costs him his life, is the direct cause of the tragedy. And Friar Lawrence, given an interesting no-nonsense interpretation by Diego Arciniegas, doesn't seem to be aware of what the youth in his charge might be up to. Certainly their parents aren't. The fact that the show takes place on a partially ruined set reinforces the impression of general disorder while the upper crust goes on giving lavish parties. Lombardo's concept of Verona is both then and now, starting with the full cast participating in the opening chorus, and ending with the Prince's solo epitaph for the action. The whole action is summed up in the opening sonnet after all. It will be interesting to see what the ART does with this popular play later in the season.