Romeo and Juliet
nytheatre.com review by Heather McAllister
December 18, 2009
The Nature Theater of Oklahoma is a high falutin', artsy fartsy group—and I don't mean that in a bad way. Intellectual theatrical smarty-pants groups are right up my alley, as long as their theory doesn't keep them a little too remote, a little too superior in attitude to their audience. I was worried that their tone might be condescending, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Romeo and Juliet is wonderfully accessible. And just wonderful. It is inclusive, touching, and personal; thought-provoking and ultimately very moving and beautiful.
Memory is a funny thing; facts we hold as certain can be constructed only of illusion, interpretation, wishful thinking. In this interesting version of Romeo and Juliet, the amazing actors Anne Gridley and Robert M. Johanson present, in very elevated Shakespearean pronunciation and gesture, the tale of Romeo and Juliet as remembered, misremembered, and tangented off into unimaginable areas by several interviewees. Every "um," "you know," and random line of thought is given the depth and weight of a monologue by the Bard himself. But that's not all. Within these reimagined tellings of this most famous of love stories, we see ourselves, our frailties, our passions. And also the nature of memory itself.
Later in the piece, Gridley and Johanson present, also in high Shakespearean style, a conversation on the nature of love, vulnerability versus neediness, and what really drives actors. Although performed in an extremely artificial way, it is strikingly honest.
Anne Gridley is adorable, with a scrunched little nose, and the physicality of a silent screen star. Her questioning gaze, and sweet, uplifting energy and spirit remind me of a Juliet for 2010.
And I have a huge actor crush on the sexy Robert M. Johanson. He is perfection. His beautiful baritone voice is amazing, his comic timing and connection with the audience impeccable, and his vulnerability touched my heart. His Romeo is thrilling.
In short, these guys are geniuses. I love them! I strongly, strongly urge you to see this hilarious, thoughtful show, and see where it takes you. It made me feel smart, and loved. Who can argue with that?