JULIET (AND ROMEO) by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Guillermo Verdecchia, with Ieva Lucs, Toby Malone, Sean Baek, Rae Ellen Bodie, Benjamin Clost, James Kirchner, Karim Morgan and Peter Smith. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to December 12, Saturday-Sunday at various times. $19-$29. 416-862-2222. Rating: NN Rating: NN
What topic speaks to teens more strongly than young love? And what classical piece draws in school-age viewers better than Romeo And Juliet? So the scheduling of the show at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People is a shrewd one. Director Guillermo Verdecchia calls his adapted text Juliet (And Romeo) , suggesting that the teenage Capulet is to be at the centre of this modern retelling.
But the production, strangely, fails to give the expected dramatic weight to Juliet; in fact, it's she who already drives the second half in the Bard's original version. Verdecchia makes some nice changes, like having the fusty old chorus ( Rae Ellen Bodie ) slip into comedy and then a different character as the play begins. On the other hand, he cuts the role of Lady Capulet, giving her lines to her husband ( Peter Smith ), who's forced to present the emotional concerns of both parents.
Sure, that happens in single-parent families, but one of the central relationships that Shakespeare's Juliet has is with her mother. We don't feel that same strength between Juliet ( Ieva Lucs ) and her father.
Lucs and her Romeo, Toby Malone , conjure up some emotion in their scenes together even if their words don't always give the text its inherent richness. They speak in choral fashion when the young lovers first meet, and at first are believably shy of each other and the feelings they share. The Australian-accented Malone's got an admirable exuberant quality and a sense of the text's meaning, but Lucs's verse-speaking tends to be lightweight, with a decidedly 21st-century feel.
Verdecchia speeds the action along - the text is full of references to haste and the tragedy it can bring - but sometimes his two leads speak so quickly that they can't be understood.
Ironically, the best work comes from some of the supporting performers. Bodie's Nurse is accommodating, fun-loving and full of warmth, while Benjamin Clost , with a firm handle on the language and a talent for giving his words physical life, alternates impressively between the shy Paris and the self-impressed, witty Mercutio. The duel scene that closes the first act is both comic and dangerous, with the sharp-edged Tybalt ( Sean Baek ) a treacherous, unpredictable Montague foe.