Romeo and Juliet

Rated 3.0

If Romeo and Juliet were hanging out nowadays, they’d be text-messaging instead of balcony bantering. Shakespeare tells us Juliet was 13, almost 14, and Romeo was a few years older. The couple’s young ages may explain the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival’s odd decision to portray the two as bumbling geeks in the second act of Shakespeare’s most revered romantic tragedy. But without any sexual sizzle, these two come across as “best friends forever” instead of star-crossed lovers.

The two actors, George Schau and Alyse Vogel, give it their best shot, but when they finally connect at the pivotal balcony scene, Juliet is giddy, and Romeo is gawky. It’s a shame. In scenes where they interact with others and in the second half, where they mature into their parts, both actors give eloquent and heartfelt speeches. By then, it’s too late.

Of course, Romeo and Juliet is meant to be more tragic than romantic. Layered into the raging hormones and true love run amok is the story of sorrow brought on by misguided family disputes and impetuous decisions. Those two tragedies come across, but not as forcefully as they should.

What works are the fight scenes, where the energy bursts forth from this cast, and the choice of Brett Williams as Mercutio. Williams brings needed physicality and sexual force into his scenes. With his bravado and charm, you can feel the danger that propels the play toward its tragic end.