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Review Roundup: ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The revival of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet opened at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Sept. 19 for a limited run through Jan. 12, 2014. Movie heartthrob Orlando Bloom (The Pirates of the Carribean and The Lord of the Rings films) in his Broadway debut and rising stage actress Condola Rashad (The Trip to Bountiful) play the star-crossed lovers who defy their elders to be together. Directed by five-time Tony nominee Daid Leveaux (Nine, The Real Thing), the production features the warring houses of Montague and Capulet played by members of opposite races in a bold example of non-traditional casting. The cast also features Tony winner Brent Carver (Kiss of the Spiderwoman) as Friar Laurence, Tony nominee Jayne Houdyshell (Dead Accounts, Follies, Well) as the Nurse, Tony winner Chuck Cooper (The Life) as Lord Capulet, Juliet’s father, Obie winner Christian Camargo (Hamlet) as Mercutio, and Obie and Lortle winner Roslyn Ruff (Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson) as Lady Capulet, Juliet’s mother. Did the critics fall in love with this new staging? Here are excerpts from the major reviewers:

Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad with the cast of 'Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet' Broadway opening night curtain call at The Richard Rogers Theater on September 19, 2013 in New York City. (Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Orlando Bloom, Condola Rashad and cast at the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ opening night curtain call (Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Ben Brantley, The New York Times
“Cut to a fast two hours and 20 minutes, this version may well leave you glowing and misty-eyed at the conclusion of its first half, which ends shortly after a genuinely luminous balcony scene. But the tragic events that follow pass in such an anticlimactic blur that when our hero and heroine finally off themselves, it’s hard to feel bereft. Featuring an era-straddling set by Jesse Poleshuck, which suggests a contemporary Italian city long past its Renaissance glory days, the show has a certain elegant sparseness. Yet it also feels overstuffed—visually, aurally and conceptually.”

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
“Bloom is the marquee attraction. Fans who have watched the star swashbuckle and get elvish on the big screen in The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings can rest easy because he’s just fine. No more, no less. Bloom throws himself thoroughly into the role of the lovestruck Italian—ticket-holders get to see him shirtless, climbing walls and flexing his gymnastic abilities.More importantly, he speaks Shakespeare’s poetry capably. But he lacks the gravity to really grab you. Together, he and Rashad are warm, not hot.”

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
In this, his Broadway and Shakespeare debuts, [Bloom] is handsome but lacks stage presence. He’s game but merely competent—and less than that when he expresses anguish. The scene in which Romeo agonizes at the prospect of being banished from his beloved is excruciatingly dull. Equally underwhelming is Condola Rashad’s one-note performance as Juliet.

David Cote, Time Out New York
“Chemistry is what you look for in the title pairing, and that’s noticeably lacking here. Rashad is always lovely and effortlessly charming, but she’s been encouraged to play up the textual fact that Juliet is a mere 13. Thus she’s all dewy innocence and saucer eyes, line readings stuck too high in a girlish register. Bloom conveys a slightly older hipster (which gives the romance a provocative, asymmetrical twist), while embracing Romeo’s foppish, self-loving side. We don’t get many revivals of the classic on professional stages, so it’s safe to say that Bloom’s swaggering, matinee-idol Romeo will be the most engaging you’ll see in years. But this is also the least erotically charged or sexually frank Romeo and Juliet I’ve ever attended.”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety
“To their great credit, Bloom and Rashad stay focused and manage to convince us that the young lovers only have eyes for each other. This Romeo and Juliet touch a lot and kiss as though they mean it. But more than passion, it’s the joyous sense of discovery that makes their love scenes so lovely—and that intimacy is precisely what’s compromised by all the running and leaping and jumping and other jittery movement.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
“The poster shot of Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad for Romeo and Juliet, clad in purest white and lost in each other’s eyes on a bed of snowy linens, could be a perfume commercial. Let’s call it William Shakespeare’s Obsession. But the dreamy intoxication that such a heady fragrance might transmit is largely missing from David Leveaux’s snoozy modern-dress production, along with poetry and heat.”

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press
“Bloom, a matinee idol, too often appears like a squinty, aging boy band member, while Rashad embraces a coltish, youthful impulsiveness. They are terrific when they kiss, and they do so with a frequency perfectly in synch by their characters’ savage love. But when they’re apart, the weight of these roles seems to push them down.”

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal
“This is a multiracial staging—the Capulets are black, the Montagues are white—and Mr. Leveaux deserves credit for not thumping the audience over the head with his ‘innovation,’ which stopped being innovative several decades ago. Otherwise, there’s not much to praise about his version of Romeo and Juliet, which has little to offer but clichés.”

Elysa Gardner, USA Today
“Bloom is without question a graceful stage performer, and still looks pretty youthful at 36. But the gap between his suave Romeo and Rashad’s breathless, girlish Juliet is glaring. They bring to mind less a couple of kids defying a harsh world than a really nice rock star and his groupie.”

Scott Brown, Vulture
“In the absence of all suspense—though not of pacing, which is fairly fleet, almost brisk—the show is taken over by spotlight supporting roles, most notably Jayne Houdyshell, who steals the show as Juliet’s nurse. Houdyshell is, of course, a brilliant stage performer, but when the Nurse runs off with your R&J, chances are it wasn’t secured properly in the first place. Mercutio’s another matter: As the only brilliant person in this rather dull crew of partisans, prigs and puppy-lovers—and thus the only crazy person, as well—he’s designed to walk away with the whole shootin’ match. Christian Camargo doesn’t disappoint…..As a verbal duelist, Camargo’s the very butcher of a silk button—he speaks in short stabbing motions, milks nothing, hits everything, jumps back before he’s worn out his welcome.”

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