Musings: Yesterday’s Cal Shakes’ Performance of “Romeo and Juliet”

Musing # 1:  The emphasis in this production was entirely on physicality:  No background scenery, barely any props, the thing to focus on was the actors’ bodies.  To project an air of urgency, the actors (only seven, all of whom remained onstage during the play’s approximately two-hour and twenty minute running time) had frequently to give the impression of running, without actually running.  Do you know how hard that is to do, dear blog readers?  The stage was not very large.  Self marveled at the scene where Juliet (played by a tiny little girl, with absolutely amazing expressiveness, whose name is Rebekah Brockman) has to run with a white sheet held high above her head.  And another scene where Benvolio (played by a woman — nice bit of non-traditional casting there) had to run towards the bodies of the slain Mercutio and Tybalt, and really this was when self realized that there is an art to miming running, miming running and then stopping short.  If one can just imagine a moving truck coming to a screeching halt, that was what this actress’s movement was.

And, if you didn’t completely “get” that this play was about physicality, Mercutio moons the audience — not just for a few brief seconds, but for a couple of minutes.  Self must say, the actor who played Mercutio, on a butt ranking from 1 to 10, was definitely a 10.  (Later, she saw him nonchalantly walking out of the theater with Juliet.  They seemed to be “together” — which, if true, makes self want to say:  Nice, Juliet!).  Anyhoo, how rude and bawdy was that moment?  Self felt that if Shakespeare himself had been sitting in the audience, he would have appreciated the scene.

Musing # 2:  Self had read reviews which had singled out the actress who played Juliet.  So self had exceedingly high expectations.  When the actress first appeared, looking very boho in fluttery white dress and army boots, self could not say she was impressed.  But there was a complete transformation when the actress did begin to act.  First of all, for such a petite woman (And self knows she is petite, because the actress was following right behind our group as we exited the theater), Rebekah Brockman has a huge presence.  Huge.  Every change of expression flits across her face.  And she did look so much like a child.  So much so that in the “bedding” scene, when Romeo and she partially disrobe, the shock was actually —  a shock.  First of all, it is hard to forget the fact that Juliet is supposed to be 14 (Not sure how old Romeo was supposed to be — 17?)  The actor who played Romeo towered over Juliet, yet seemed so much weaker, emotionally and spiritually.  After their first kiss, this tiny girl rails:  “You kiss by the book!” and grabs his face and plants a good, long wet one on him and —  self has to say, this is the first time she has fully understood the import of that utterance.

Musing # 3:  It was very hot.  Self has no idea how the actors endured acting in all that heat.  Presumably, they are used to it.  But still.  The beads of sweat were running down self’s neck, and all she was doing was sitting on a chair and watching, while the people who had to do the really heavy work (that is, the actors) were running and jumping and stomping around the stage.  And self does mean stomping.  Romeo and Juliet and Tybalt and Mercutio and Malvolio and even the Nanny had stomping scenes.  Probably the only character who was not required to stomp was the courtly Paris (who, in the upcoming movie version, is to be played by Hunk of 300 Tom Wisdom)

In his letter on the programme, Jonathan Moscone (Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director, who is doing such a GREAT job), said that this was the third production of Romeo and Juliet during his tenure.  Now self can say she’s seen two of the three.  The second was perhaps a decade ago.  In that one, the girl who played Juliet was very tall and willowy and looked fabulous in a nude-colored shift.  But she was a woman.  Definitely a woman.  Romeo (played by Adam Scott), was a hunk, but not very tall —  certainly not as tall as yesterday’s Romeo —  and he wore black clothing, as if he were a version of the Prince of Denmark.

In yesterday’s production, Romeo wore skinny corduroy pants (a burnt orange color), lace-up shoes (grey), a white T-shirt, and black suspenders.  The white T-shirt wasn’t very neatly tucked.  He did look scruffy and impetuous.  And he towered over Juliet.  And just the disparity in height, from a purely visual point of view, lent this version of Romeo and Juliet a completely different dynamic from the earlier version self had seen.

Later, during Q & A, a member of the audience asked if Romeo’s attire was meant to conjure memories of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.  OMG!  Self can tell you that she never once thought of Malcolm McDowell during the play.

Anyhoo:  Last year, self really really wanted to watch Hamlet.  But son was very busy, and self thought it would be too sad to go without him.  This year, when he said he was willing to go, she asked him if he’d like to see Romeo and Juliet or perhaps one of the other plays later in the season (The 2013 season winds up wtih A Winter’s Tale).  When son said he wanted to see Romeo and Juliet, self really had to scramble because the play was nearly sold out.  She had to get eight tickets, and our party was split up in pairs, all over the theater.  But that was nice, too, for directly across from self and The Man, self could see son and his friend Steven.  If she turned a little to the left and up, she could see Jessika and Pepe.  Further to the center and back was a very nonchalant-looking Aubert.  The last member of our party of eight was Kramer, who was making a mad dash from Davis.  Self saw him walk in just as the play began.  The usher wouldn’t let him get to his seat, but gave him one close to the front, in one of the Premiere seats.  What a lucky boy!

Another thought that kept recurring to self as she watched the play was the memory of how close she had come to actually visiting Verona.  At the end of April, self had taken the train from Venice to Vicenza.  Verona was only a few more stops away.  But instead of continuing, self turned back to Venice.  She thought she could make it to Verona on another day.  But that other day never happened.  Well, she hopes she can make it to that fabled city, someday.

(Self ran straight to the TV after getting home:  It was about 9:30, and she wanted to catch what she could of “The Killing.”  But after a search, she deduced that there hadn’t been any.  The next airing is next Sunday.  So she didn’t miss anything after all!  Happy happy joy joy!)

*          *          *          *

As an added treat, here’s a blog that self just happened to stumble on, which describes what was to be seen at the R & J rehearsalsVeeery interesting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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