Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare's romantic tragedy is about youthful love which is thwarted and two undeniably appealing young people whose universe will not allow them to enjoy themselves. Indeed, Romeo (Joseph Parks) and Juliet (Irene Sofia Lucio, a young woman whose physical fervor catches attention on and off stage), are "star-crossed" victims. The leads, freed to express themselves by director Cooper, are stirring, eager, even rapturous. The elder generation can neither tolerate nor understand the upstarts and their sexual urgency.
Those who have said that Romeo and Juliet is about sex and death have a reasonable claim to that belief. Yet, the title characters offer more as they evolve: attraction, flirting, and then a deeper relationship if there were a future. All the action occurs within five days and Shakespeare was only about thirty years of age when he wrote this play, a relatively early one in his repertoire. Time, during the early going, passes slowly and then seemingly accelerates.
The Yale rendering honors the symmetry of the text and specifically demonstrates that the lovers are contentious with an oppositional world and uncooperative families. Andy Murray plays Capulet, Juliet's father. Capulet, hotheaded, insists that his daughter to come to her senses; Christina Rouner, as the very stiff Lady Capulet, is similarly out of touch with her daughter. Age attempts to constrict youth.
The show begins with the beating of drums and an initial scene of turmoil and grapple. The performance space is wide and Po-Lin Li's set inspires awe. The designer provides a grid-like structure which includes height (including a lengthy balcony), a bar used for gymnastics, and huge windows. Rick Sordelet, as fight director, is pivotal. He sets people tumbling, gyrating and, sometimes, waving knives at one another. Sean Curran's fine choreography complements Sordelet's work. Thus, this Romeo and Juliet is, at times, fittingly bloody.
At intermission, an inviting bed is placed center stagehormones will run delightfully wilder during the final ninety minutes of the galvanic production. Playing Juliet as if she actually is Juliet, Irene Sofia Lucio (a third year MFA student at Yale School of Drama) reacts with many visual emotions throughout. Joseph Parks' ardent Romeo swings from the bar toward the rear of the stage at one point. These electric actors are convincing as they kiss, fondle and enmesh.
If a best supporting actor award were designated, the recipient would be Cynthia Mace as Nurse. Whether funny, bawdy, affectionate, or emotionally bereft, the veteran performer is persuasive throughout. Henry Stram gets significant stage time as Friar Laurence and thoroughly inhabits the character.
Director Cooper seeks a rich, visual depiction of this classic play and the extraordinary production realizes her perception. Romeo and Juliet die in the crypt but I challenge anyone leaving the theater to walk away feeling depressed. Instead, the potency of love and this brilliantly conceived actualization of Shakespeare carry the day.
Romeo and Juliet continues at Yale University Theatre in New Haven through April 2nd. For tickets, call (203) 432-12343 or visit yalerep.org.
- Fred Sokol