Thursday, July 10, 2008

Old Globe's Romeo and Juliet

I think that "Romeo and Juliet" is a bullet-proof play. You can tear it apart as a director or actor, kick its teeth in and drag it out bloody for everyone to gawk at, and it will still please audiences. It's not like people haven't tried to ruin this play, but productions of it are never able to be quite atrocious enough to turn anyone off of it.

Every time I see "Romeo and Juliet" I roll my eyes at decisions the artists make, and I clench my fist and jaw when productions stumble over and over again. But in the end, when I'm asked if I liked it, the worst thing I can say is that it wasn't bad.

The production I saw in San Diego was proof of R&J's indestructibility. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Everything felt clumsy and stuttering, like I caught the crew at rehearsal or on a very off night. It felt like nearly everyone involved was just sharpening their teeth. If I went into everything disastrous about the Old Globe's production of R&J this year, it would take much too much space for a blog entry. But I will say that every prop that could malfunction did, which was actually pretty hilarious.

But there were diamonds in the rough. Fresh-faced Heather Wood was delightful and tragic. She navigated the emotions Juliet so well that she played the stage like a carousel horse, hitting every golden ring perfectly. Laughs and tears for her, indeed. Watch that one. Catch her blowing bubbles when she makes her first entrance.

The other noteworthy was Owiso Odera as Mercutio. R&J is the play I have seen most, and I don't think that I have been more reluctant to let a Mercutio go. I am usually rather relieved when he dies. Not so here. When he left I was left wondering who would do all the heavy lifting. Odera also delivered the Queen Mab speech in a way that made me lose my sanity momentarily and think about taking back everything I've ever said or thought about Mab. It's a good actor who can deliver Mab without being tedious and lame. Odera even pulled off the conjuring bit in the second act.

Owiso Odera and Heather Wood both have fantastic names, so they won't be hard to remember, but it's nice that they give us many more reasons to do so.

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