Thursday, August 29, 2013

Romeo and Juliet




First, a message from my 17-year-old self: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I was in the same room as Orlando Bloom! Breathing the same air! Oh, my God! I saw him act in person! Ahhhh!

Back to being 27 years old: As you can probably guess from the giant photo of a poster above, Orlando Bloom, he of elves and pirates, he of the endless (literally) volume(s) of fanfiction I produced from ages 17 to 19, is making his Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet as, well, Romeo. 

Truth is, I haven't really been following Bloom's more recent career moves, but I heard about this play going up and had to see it. Shakespeare? Check. A play I already know and studied in school? Check. Orlando Bloom? Hells yeah!

So I went, with my frequent Broadway partner in crime, my friend Jess, and saw it. I'll get to that in a minute. 

A Rant
Just an aside, for those who might want to set a story in New York City but don't live here: a great place to set a scene of futile desperation or utter frustration is at a subway station with a stopped train that hasn't moved in twenty minutes, trains going ahead on the express track, and announcements that "there is train traffic ahead of us," then "there is a situation at Queensboro Plaza," then "there is a smoke situation in a tunnel between Manhattan and Queens," then "there is a track fire near Queensboro Plaza." 

At which point, there is a mass exodus to a stop eight blocks away in hopes of catching one of those trains that was  running past the held-up train. Yeah. And I pay a $2.50 fare per ride for this crap? With more fare hikes coming?! 

The Play
I used to think Romeo and Juliet was romantic, up until I studied it in school. It was the first Shakespeare play I read in high school, in ninth grade. Of course, it's also oft-quoted, well-referenced and has been filmed, so of course, I remembered it. 

Thing is, I didn't realize how much of it was so vulgar. In school, the emphasis was on the story (They're young, they grow quickly in love, tragedy strikes. What can we learn from this, hormonal teenage class?) and the poetry (But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?). But from watching a performance, I learned that many of Mercutio and Benvolio's lines are sex jokes. 

Also, Shakespeare definitely wrote credible teenagers. I saw points where Juliet tried to be sensible (What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?) and a scene where Friar Lawrence had to talk Romeo off the edge (what a different play it would be if Romeo had stayed with Friar Lawrence and things had turned out a bit mellower). Romeo is angry and ranting and raving in this version after killing Tybalt. Both are immature, but caught in a violent cycle with their families' hatred. 

Also, the second act is plot-plot-plot until Romeo finds Juliet in the tomb. Where be the pretty poetry? It's like Shakespeare realized he needed to get everything in. 

And yes, I still think they're stupid teenagers, despite the star-crossed lovers thing. 

The Performance
This version was interesting. The Capulets are black (with Condola Rashad playing Juliet). The Montagues are white. The reason for their quarrel is not mentioned. The costumes and setting are modern day (Orlando Bloom's entrance on a motorcycle was quite something), but they retained Shakespeare's original language. 

As much of a fangirl as I was back in the day, I knew that Bloom came across kind of stiff in his earlier parts. On stage, however, I believed him as a young man in the throes of a violent conflict and a deep infatuation. I mean, yeah, he gets a bit scenery-chewy in act two, but still. He's angry, so I'll forgive that. Also, the man has not aged.

Condola Rashad, a two-time Tony nominee, was sweet, innocent and definitely playing younger as Juliet. The balcony scene was adorable! Juliet getting the news of her impending marriage from her Nurse was hilarious. 

Also, Christian Camargo as Mercutio was fantastic. During intermission, Jess looked him up on Imdb. We overheard the people behind us talking about this actor's credits as well. 

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4 comments:

  1. That's interesting. I can't say I'm a big Orlando Bloom fan, but I love it when actors branch out like this.

    I love the lines in this play. Definitely some of Shakespeare's best I think, though I agree so much with the stupid teenager thing. They didn't die because of the feud, they died because they didn't communicate properly. I love it though. I saw the ballet earlier this year. :)

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    1. I wouldn't really call myself an Orlando Bloom fan anymore, but how can you ever pass up the chance to see an actor you liked doing Shakespeare?

      The poetry is gorgeous. Sometimes I think it's a little hackneyed because it's referenced so much, but the actors definitely brought new delivery to the most famous lines.

      We were joking that it would've been so much easier if Friar Lawrence could have emailed Romeo in Mantua. ;-)

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  2. I truly enjoyed these performances (now that I've gotten over our horrible commute home). All the nuances that the actors brought out that were missed in English class further my argument that some literature just needs to be accepted as is and not dissected beyond recognition. The essence was better captured in this 3 hour originally intended play than a 3 week course.

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    1. i don't remember how we were taught Romeo and Juliet (unlike the scar on my psyche that was five months of Hamlet)--but seriously, sex jokes! Puns! Actual characterizations! Plays really have to be performed to actually make them make sense, methinks. Otherwise, it's dialogue and stage directions.

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