Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 04:47 am est

Elizabeth Olsen-led ‘Romeo and Juliet’ misconstrues classic play

Posted on October 23, 2013 | by Dylan Jarrett

Courtesy of Classic Stage Company

“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” “Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” “A plague on both your houses.”

It is nearly impossible to leave a production of “Romeo and Juliet” without one of these famous lines echoing in your head. William Shakespeare’s play about tragic young love and feuding families contains some of his most well-known phrases.

However, after seeing the Classic Stage Company’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” running through Nov. 10, these are not the words viewers will remember upon exiting the theater. Instead, Friar Laurence’s Act II soliloquy on the properties of herbs is the scene that is most memorable. Delivered by Academy Award-winner William Hurt, this often forgotten speech is the first moment of beautiful theater in this heavy-handed production populated with an overwhelmingly unremarkable cast.

Unfortunately, this production of “Romeo and Juliet” feels a bit lost. The first half of the show seems to draw heavily on Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of the play. The characters speak Spanish, the Capulet’s party turns into a rave and Tybalt and Lady Capulet definitely have an intimate relationship. As the play progresses, though, it loses all sense of direction. The famous fight between Mercutio and Tybalt begins as a simple fist fight, but then Tybalt picks up a blood packet from a silver bucket downstage center and slams it against Mercutio’s chest in a clumsy and awkward maneuver, splattering blood to let the audience know Mercutio is fatally wounded. The sloppiness of this scene persists throughout the show.

Romeo, played by NYU alumnus Julian Cihi, is usually a whiny character. However, Cihi never allows his Romeo to be anything more than whiny, keeping him static instead of turning him into a romantic hero. T.R. Knight’s Mercutio is similarly one-note — he portrays his anger well, but angry is all he does. Juliet, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is the best of the three leads. She feels like a Juliet for the 21st century, bouncing from excited to lovestruck to depressed from one instant to the next, similar to an actual teenage girl.

The dynamic between the three is strained at best, though, and almost awkward to watch. The only real theatrical force in the play is William Hurt’s Friar Laurence. Whenever he is on stage, it is impossible to tear your gaze from him. His voice, as he delivers Shakespeare’s words, rises and falls with the cadence of the verse.

Hurt gives a masterful performance. Sadly, the rest of the cast is not up to par. At times, it feels as though the actors don’t understand what they are saying. When it’s performed well, Shakespeare should feel almost like the English we speak today. Instead, the words in this “Romeo and Juliet” are nearly incomprehensible. Because the actors fail to interpret Shakespeare’s verse, It is actually difficult to follow the plot of the most well-known love story in the world.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 23 print edition. Dylan Jarrett is books/theater editor. Email her at djarrett@nyunews.com.

Note: This review was based on a preview of “Romeo and Juliet,” written before William Hurt had been replaced by Daniel Davis. 

Comments

  • Melanie

    What playbill did you get because William Hurt dropped out awhile ago, last night (and every night) Friar Laurence is played by Daniel Davis.

    • Dylan

      Thank you for letting us know. This review was based on a preview performance and we’ve made an edit noting the change.

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next