Romeo & Juliet
nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
January 15, 2009
Busted Muffin's production of Romeo and Juliet is a spectacle not to be missed. From the moment Cherrye Davis as Queen Mab appeared from behind a side door hidden in the wall, shadowed by red light and dressed in glittery black, I knew I was in for some fun. Stomping across the stage, with such physical command of the space, she and the enigmatic Prince (Brandon Goodman) rev up the audience for the ride. The remaining characters take the liberty of entering the stage from every corner and crevice, including the aisles, unabashedly leaping across window sills, sliding across the floor, and jumping off the walls, transforming the space into a literal playground—and my, do these actors play well.
The costuming by Matt Rodriguez is terrific and well-suited to each character. Most memorable is Lady Capulet in a dramatic long black gown, with jewel-studded gloves to match, strings of pearls draped around her neck, and a Kentucky Derby hat to top it off. Jessica Barr is superb as Lady Capulet; she could crack windows with her shrill, though well-sung, voice. Romeo (Adam Cochran) enters playing guitar with skull-faced suspenders, a ripped t-shirt and black jeans, sporting effeminate long locks and black makeup—a modern day jilted, angst-ridden teen. Mercutio is refreshingly played by a woman, the ferocious Makeda Declet, who, clad in fishnet, struts with stellar moves. With all the dark hues on stage, Juliet (Elsa Carette) provides a nice contrast in her snow-white dress which elegantly silhouettes her fair flesh and petit frame; she embodies purity entwined in the sinister world around her.
Director Sanaz Ghajarrahimi, in collaboration with choreographer Ben Hobbs, showcases her flair for style, particularly in the Capulet ball scene, in which the characters size one another up like hawks, as they dance, establishing an immediate tension that remains consistent throughout the piece and fills us with suspense, despite the fact that we all know the outcome. The balcony scene is charming with the inventive use of a ladder and Gema Kaneko and John Robichau's light design, which nicely evokes the moon and serves for a game of shadow play. The duel scene between Tybalt, Romeo, and Mercutio is action-packed; the fight choreography is dangerously precise and has the audience gripping their seats. The actors throw themselves at one another violently, but with a marked grace. Likewise, the love scene between Romeo and Juliet is riveting; Carette and Cochran nimbly dance in the dark, fiercely and passionately consummating their love. Also worth noting is the addition of Juliet's dream sequence, in which Lord Capulet creeps on stage, joined by the rest of the cast, in clown-face, luring Juliet into a freakish circus.
The original musical score by Jerome Ellis, Anna Morsett, and Adam Cochran nicely compliments the mood of the piece, incorporating such instruments as piano, saxophone, tambourine, and guitar. Ellis and Morsett remain on stage throughout the production, with Ellis playing piano upstage and Morsett looming atop a window sill, strumming her guitar strings alternately with a pick and bow. Original songs include the edgy "Queen Mab hath been with You."
As I sat though this production of Romeo and Juliet, I started to feel that there seemed to be little love in this play. Then I realized that the play is full of love, but the love expresses itself in hate. We all know what happens, but the death of Romeo and Juliet is not where this play ends. Rather, it is when everyone sees the star-crossed lovers dead and realizes that they are all, in part, responsible for this atrocity which has sprung from pure love and manifested in ill-fate. This is the tragedy of this play, and this production beautifully captures it when the two mothers clench their children and, together, tenderly mourn their shame.