Oct. 24--Shakespeare's beloved tale of two young star-crossed lovers is finding new life both onscreen and onstage this season. Whereas the Julian Fellowes-stamped film version takes a more traditional route, the Folger Theatre offers a slightly different take with the timeless story of "Romeo and Juliet."
In this production, our doomed couple is not portrayed as fresh-faced model-ready types. Instead, this Romeo and Juliet are a bit rough around the edges.
Romeo (Michael Goldsmith) is shown as a scrappy hipster while his sweet and bookish Juliet (Erin Weaver), sporting thick glasses and ombre extensions, looks like she just returned from a Lilith Fair concert.
In lieu of Renaissance pageantry, Folger opts for a simple and sleek Verona setting. The two-level dark wooden setting features a few lit-up translucent images and a couple of apothecary cabinets. There are no guns (sorry, Baz Luhrmann), no wild costume parties and no pop-culture references.
In fact, there doesn't seem to be a defined place and time by the looks of the set and costumes, and maybe that's the point director Aaron Posner is trying to make--that this story written back in the 16th century shares the same struggles as today, with our dying youth and national response to tragedy.
From the play's onset, the hatred between the feuding Capulets and Montagues is apparent as both parties stand separated and shouting at one another. (Just look at the one-faced human bomb Tybalt.) And all it takes is the death of their young ones to inspire change. "Romeo and Juliet" does have a lighter side, and Folger plays up some of the humor, especially among Romeo and his Mumford & Sons-looking bros. Although sometimes, the wavering tone makes the show feel unbalanced. The second act comes off more stable and focused.
As the lovesick Romeo, Goldsmith--in his Folger debut--makes for an interesting choice. Although a fine actor, he becomes overshadowed by the other performers at times--namely, by his Juliet. Their scenes, however, are delightful to watch, such as the moment they slowly touch hands while hiding from each other behind a column.
Weaver fares much better in this production as Juliet. Sure, it might be hard for viewers to buy that she's supposed to be 14 years old, but just go with it. There's no denying that Weaver commands the stage. From being daddy's girl to a tenacious wife faced with her husband's death, Juliet goes through a lot within just a few days, and Weaver deftly runs through the gamut of character changes and emotions.
Also performing wonderfully here is Stafford actress Sherri Edelen, who plays the scene-stealing Nurse. The bond between Juliet and her caretaker is an unbreakable one, and their scenes can be both sweet and funny or emotionally moving.
This staging may not offer anything new, but "Romeo and Juliet" is a tale worth revisiting.
WANT TO GO?
What: "Romeo and Juliet"
Where: Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE, Washington
When: Through Dec. 1
(c)2013 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
Visit The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.) at www.fredericksburg.com/flshome
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