“Romeo and Juliet” is one of Shakespeare’s greatest known tragedies. This is both a blessing and a curse for theater companies.
The show has great name recognition, but hasn’t it already been, ahem, “done to death?”
According to several critics, Ten Thousand Things Theater Company’s latest production appears to prove that there is still gold to be mined from this classic play. Only one critic found the show “a disappointment.”
For director Peter Rothstein and the eight-actor cast with Ten Thousand Things, it’s all about ramping up the tension and emotions to the point that they are palpable. The early blushes of love between our “star-crossed” lovers? It’s like a dream as the pair share their first dance. You can feel the longing the two have for each other in your bones, as they spend so much of the play apart.
Smallwood, in particular, creates a fully inhabited Romeo, his mobile face transparently reflecting emotions and quicksilver nuances of mood as he falls precipitously in love. He’s clearly at ease with the language and overlays it with a modern tenor that makes it fully accessible, capturing both its lyricism and its wit.
…Under Peter Rothstein’s sensitive direction, I saw things I’d never seen before: the playful teenager quality of the balcony scene, the artifice of Lady Capulet, Friar Lawrence’s quick mind and deep understanding of the larger picture, more possibilities for comic relief in the servant roles.
The little mistakes in the story that become turning point moments were never “given away.” We know that Romeo got in the way in Mercutio’s fight with Tybalt, that Friar John didn’t deliver the letter, and Paris confronts Romeo in Juliet’s tomb. But do we always catch Shakespeare’s exquisite set up and timing of each of these incidences? Rothstein doesn’t miss a thing.
Peter Rothstein, whose guest-directing duties on “Romeo and Juliet” overlapped with staging “Master Class” for Theatre Latte Da (where he is artistic director), may have been suffering from a case of split focus with this staging. There’s a not-fully-thought-out vibe that permeates the production: questions that remain unexplored, moments that never really materialize, a setting whose fuzziness seems more lazy than intentional, relationships that don’t quite gel. This, then, leaves the actors to their own devices, and while the company is comprised of eight performers who have done some terrific work on local stages, none of them is near to their best efforts here.
Ten Thousand Things’ production of “Romeo and Juliet” runs through Nov. 2. Have you seen it? What’s your review?