Elizabeth Olsen's 'Romeo and Juliet' remains earthbound; 'Julius caesar costume child' rules in Donmar Warehouse production
'Romeo and Juliet'
Classic Stage Company
136 E. 13th St.
Tickets: $60-$125; (212) 677-4210
St. Ann's Warehouse
29 Jay St., Brooklyn
Tickets: $50-$80; (718) 254-8779
Being star-crossed is just one issue facing the Verona lovebirds in a downtown "Romeo and Juliet" that comes dressed in contemporary clothes and leaves no impact.
As played by newcomer Julian Cihi and film starlet Elizabeth Olsen, the doomed youths lack passion and vocal chops. Each delivers Shakespeare's poetry with all the music of a broken iPod.
A month after Broadway's tepid take starring Orlando Bloom, Classic Stage Company's wan version provides an even less compelling reason to revisit the tragedy.
Director Tea Alagic's vision is streamlined - no prologue, no epilogue, no Lady Montague, no knives for a couple of murders; just blood capsules that burst and leave a gory trail. That final bit rouses interest momentarily, as does a wildly costumed masked ball.
The show's minimal scenery - blank floor and matching wall and a few sticks of furniture - is a backdrop for acting styles that are all over the map. The mashup makes for an unsatisfying piecemeal effect.
As Juliet's dad, David Garrison stands out, thanks to his regal and reserved approach. T.R. Knight pinches his voice into a weird whine for his manic Mercutio. And as Juliet's nurse (better, her sometimes Spanish-speaking nanny), Daphne Rubin-Vega recalls Anita of "West Side Story" and Ricky Ricardo. The actress is memorable, which isn't the same thing as wholly successful.
Meanwhile, at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, a muscular and mesmerizing all-female production of "Julius Caesar" from London's Donmar Warehouse makes for a thoroughly riveting evening.
The action takes place in a women's prison where inmates are presenting the tragedy of power and alliances. It's refreshing that the show trusts the audience's intelligence and makes only minimal effort to underline connections.
Kudos to director Phyllida Lloyd ("Mamma Mia!"), who proves she's as adept with gritty classics as with modern musical fluff. In a top-to-bottom terrific cast, Cush Jumbo makes a mighty Mark Antony, Jenny Jules is a persuasive Cassius and the great Harriet Walter anchors the cast as Brutus.
A scene where prisoners run around willy-nilly is a head-scratcher. But in a show where Shakespeare's language is spoken with such crystal clarity, that's a pardonable offense.