Far from ill-fated
Romeo and Juliet
Juliet Capulet, 14, and her slightly older love, Romeo Montague, are precocious and mature. That’s the way Shakespeare writes them, and that’s the way they should be played: 14 and mature, not 18 and their age. That’s why it’s such a joy to see two actors who actually appear to be 14 portraying the star-crossed lovers with insight and yet with all the inexperience and capriciousness of real children in Brewery Arts Center’s Romeo and Juliet.
Domenic Procaccini II (Romeo) and Ashleigh Petrell (Juliet) capably demonstrate the intensity and unexpectedness of the renowned lovers’ romance. A moment where Romeo—on the verge of being spotted by Juliet’s nurse—sprints back to Juliet, leaping over her balcony and into her arms, exemplifies the hastiness, giddiness, purity and craze of the couple’s every onstage interaction. The two actors are more comfortable touching, caressing and making out than many people probably are with their own spouse in their own living room. There is some serious spit-swapping in this play, and it’s adorable and wholly romantic.
Procaccini and Petrell could not have been more perfectly cast. Juliet, though young, shows a lot of vigor … and cleavage, making her look all the more ripe for the plucking. Procaccini matches Petrell in petite-ness, and both actors convey a sense of having just recently achieved puberty.
Although Romeo and Juliet are young, and there are other child actors in the show, the play is definitely meant for older audiences. Firstly, the running time, just over three hours (including a 15-minute intermission) is long even for adults. Then, there’s a lot of lewd humor. On at least five occasions, swords are stuck in upright positions near the male pubic area. And the nurse (Karen Chandler in top form)—holy hot loins, the horny nurse—she is full of all sorts of lusty lines about the joy of being wed and being at your virile husband’s beck and call.
Brewery Arts’ version of Romeo and Juliet is heavy on love and sex, which is satisfying, but director Christopher James seems to want the violence to be equally powerful. The sword fights, while cleverly choreographed, feel slightly out of place and slow compared to the whirlwind romance of the young lovers.
Mercutio’s (Corey B. Stockton) poetic monologue about Queen Mab, ruler of dreams is over-the-top and dizzying to hear but very fun. Unfortunately, that is Mercutio’s one shining moment. His following scenes are tedious and inspire headaches. A laugh like Tom Hulce’s high-pitched gobble in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus starts to grate the nerves and becomes more of a gimmick as the play goes on.
The scene where Capulet (Dave Josten), Juliet’s father, chides his daughter for refusing to marry Paris (Robert Bruce) should have been cruelly intense and devastating to watch, but Josten’s struggle with his lines and his constant breaks in character make it difficult to stay within the world of the play. Geraldine Pope, however, who plays Juliet’s mother, conveys both coldness and compassion with convincing sophistication.
The large cast of Romeo and Juliet is used to great effect in both the opening and ending scenes, and the majority of the actors carry their weight.
Procaccini and Petrell, not intimidated by their gargantuan roles and turning in rock-solid performances, show a lot of promise. It will be exciting to see where these talents will go. They’d doubtless succeed in larger theater cities, but let’s hope such talent stays right here at home.