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June 16th, 2007

Romeo & Juliet

Yes, we were lucky to get tickets. Sitting in row X, sandwiched between the two parties we'd stood in line with (they'd both been to China, and were playing "I was a more intrepid tourist than you." The guy who had rented a motorcycle in Peking won) we were practically on Central Park West, but got an excellent view of the blocking and the set, which was very impressive.

There was a long arched bridge that moved on wheels and divided, providing the balcony, streets in Verona, and (underneath) Friar Laurence's cell and Juliet's bedroom, depending on what side was front. The bridge spanned a shallow pond (ankle-depth, perhaps) mounted on a wooden board-walk-like stage that turned at scene changes. It all sounds more complicated than it looks, and actually worked pretty well. Except for the water. I didn't get the water. Was it symbolic of something? Death? Despair? Romeo certainly got himself very wet indeed when he was upset over being banished. And both Mercutio and Tybalt bought it in the pond. But a certain amount of the Capulet's ball was water-based, too. So it was confusing.

Furthermore, it was kind of chilly last night, with a brisk breeze, and all I kept thinking, as I watched everyone floundering around, getting their feet wet and soaking the bottoms of their costumes, was that they were all going to catch their death of colds unless the summer got a lot warmer really quickly. Juliet especially, delicate and redhaired in white cotton frocks, looked at least as cold as tragic. But there were some nice visuals of her reflected in the water, with the Carlyle Hotel playing Moon over her shoulder and bats flying overhead.

Be all that as it may, we enjoyed ourselves very much. Romeo was particularly wonderful--pure passion, teenage energy, a certain childishness coupled with a real intelligence. Also, cute as a button. Juliet did a fine job with both the balcony scene and that difficult speech, often cut, right before she drinks Friar Laurence's sleepy draught. She played her young and maybe a little modern, but it was appropriate to the production, and she certainly understood and could speak the poetry, which is a great thing.

I liked the Nurse better than Ellen did, but we were as one in wondering whether Friar Laurence should have stayed in bed that morning. I have no idea what was wrong, but something was. He dropped lines like hot potatoes, transposed words, repeated himself, inserted long, nervous-making pauses before words he was clearly fishing for, and tried to make up for the fact that he just couldn't remember his part by alternately shouting and whispering, as far as I could tell, at random. By the end of the play, he wasn't really acting any more--he was just getting through the part, and he very nearly wrecked everything. Luckily, Romeo and Juliet (despite having to crawl around in the water) were more than up to the tragedy, so it turned out entirely satisfactorily, from a tragic catharsis point of view.

Is it good? I don't know. I'm not a critic. I liked it a lot, but then I like most things. And I do so love Shakespeare.

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