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Reviewed by:
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Leah Lowe
Romeo & Juliet Presented by The American Repertory Theatre at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts. February 4-March 25, 2006. Directed by Gadi Roll. Set by Riccardo Hernandez. Costumes by Kasia Maimone. Lighting by DM Wood. Sound by David Remedios. Fight choreography by Rod Kinter. With John Campion (Escalus, Prince of Verona), Tony Roach (Paris), Jeremy Geidt (Montague), Will LeBow (Capulet), Remo Airaldi (Peter), Mickey Solis (Romeo), Che Ayende (Mercutio), Molly Ward (Benvolio), Marc Aden Grey (Tybalt), Thomas Derrah (Friar Lawrence), Mikki Lipsey (Lady Montague), Elizabeth Hess (Lady Capulet), Annika Boras (Juliet), Karen MacDonald (Nurse), and others.

The American Repertory Theatre's production of Romeo & Juliet staged by Israeli director Gadi Roll examined the story of the young couple within the context of a brutally violent Verona. In contrast to theatrical interpreters who have taken the love between Romeo and Juliet as a hopeful alternative to the conflicted social world that surrounds them, Roll's headstrong adolescents and their impulsive marriage seemed to be the inevitable products of a hopelessly embittered environment. As the play began in Roll's Verona, Romeo, Juliet and the rest of the city's youth, inheritors of their parents' prejudices, searched restlessly for something—anything—to consume them; Verona's elders, meanwhile, perpetuated the animosity between the Capulet and Montague families as a matter of grim habit. This Romeo & Juliet reflected an understanding of the play as one more concerned with the cyclical violence and self-destructiveness [End Page 107] of its broader social world than with the relationship between its titular lovers.

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Figure 1.

American Repertory Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The production's emphasis on Verona and its populace gave a great deal of weight to set designer Riccardo Hernandez's visualization of the play's locations. The production's playing area, a rectangular pit filled with sand and surrounded on all sides by walkways of black metallic grating, ran the entire width of the Loeb Drama Center's broad auditorium. Seating was provided in front of and behind the stage, separating the audience into two groups and reinforcing the antagonism structuring Verona. A metal catwalk suspended above the right side of the stage ran from one end of the house to the other and this served as Juliet's balcony as well as the entrance to the Capulets' tomb. The play's different locations were suggested by such embellishments as a length of red carpet that ran from one end of the sand pit to the other, transforming Verona's streets to the Capulets' banquet hall. These simple set dressings were accompanied by changes in lighting. Lighting designer DM Wood flew in sparkling chandeliers for the ball and other scenes inside the Capulet home. A series of streetlamps hung from the lighting grid marked the outdoor areas of the city, and a lovely walkway of tiny lights suspended at knee height led Romeo to Juliet's balcony. Despite the alterations that distinguished one setting from another, the visual constancy of the central sand pit and its [End Page 108] metallic boundaries lent the production's Verona an industrial lifelessness, unrelenting in its barren monotony.

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Figure 2.

Annika Boras (Juliet) in American Repertory Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The set, with its long central playing area running through the middle of the audience, provided Roll with ample opportunities to explore his reading of the play through use of the physical space. The narrow track rendered almost any lateral movements confrontational. In the play's first scene, for instance, Sampson and Gregory, servants of the Capulets, entered from one side of the stage only to be blocked by the Montagues' Abram and Balthazar who entered from the other. As Benvolio and Tybalt took sides and the conflict heated up, the stage picture—a profile view of the Capulet clan squaring off against the Montague gang—indicated a direct and unyielding opposition. The production's symmetrically staged ball scene reiterated this sense of confrontation as Romeo and his friends, masked by...


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