Theater Review: Romeo and Juliet at the Guthrie

13 October 2017

The following review was submitted by Kate Johnson, ’19.

Image from the StarTribune

If you missed the rush to get a ticket for the September 27th performance of Director Joseph Haj’s production of Romeo and Juliet at the Guthrie Theater, have no worries; you haven’t missed much. The production is inconsistent in quality, and the few intriguing moments fail to redeem the entirety of the performance.

The mixture of modern clothing with more traditional styles might suggest a timeless quality to the story, but it is ultimately distracting, not delineating a separation between Capulet and Montague, old and young, or any other discernible grouping. The telegraphed physical gestures added to lewd jokes are overdone and unnecessary, the equivalent of an enthusiastic child who repeats the punchline of a Laffy-Taffy joke and exclaims “Get it, did you get it?” Similarly, the sporadic use of a young teenager’s mannerisms for Kate Eastman’s Juliet is jarring and inconsistent with her moments of maturity throughout the play.

Image from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Nonetheless, Kelsey Didion’s Mercutio is energetic and fun, and Stan Demidoff’s Tybalt is imposing and charismatic. The climactic spotlight on Tybalt’s corpse which concludes the first half of the play dramatically sets the stage for the denouement of Romeo and Juliet’s story.

The rotating circular set with a prominent clock tower is an interesting attempt to stress the quick pace of the two teens’ affair. In an innovative move, the two scenes after Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment when Romeo and Juliet separately seek help from their respective confidantes are combined into a single overlapping scene with all four characters on stage. The resulting shared scene does far more to speed the lovers toward their tragic end. The scene is poignant, beautifully choreographed, and one of the most memorable in the production.

Image from the Twin Cities Arts Reader

Memorable for entirely different reasons is the scene in which Romeo buys poison from the Apothecary. In a bizarre choice, the Apothecary is disfigured, dirty, growls around a mouthful of gravel, and casts a massive shadow upon the back of the stage, as if the walking dead have made an unscheduled appearance in Mantua.

All things considered—peculiar costuming choices and stellar choreography, undead Apothecary and overemphasized humor—the Guthrie Theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet is a lackluster version of one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays.

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