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Review Roundup: CSC's ROMEO & JULIET

Classic Stage Company, under the leadership of Artistic Director Brian Kulick and Executive Director Greg Reiner, presents Shakespeare'sRomeo & Juliet, starring Elizabeth Olsen as Juliet and Julian Cihi as Romeo, directed by Tea Alagic.

The cast of Romeo & Juliet also features McKinley Belcher III (Benvolio), Daniel Davis (Friar Laurence), Stan Demidoff (Paris/Sampson), Harry Ford(Gregory, Friar John, Watchman), David Garrison (Capulet), T. R. Knight (Mercutio), Anthony Michael Martinez (Prince), Kathryn Meisle (Lady Capulet), Dion Mucciacito (Tybalt), John Rothman (Montague/Apothecary) and Daphne Rubin-Vega(Nurse). Set design is by Marsha Ginsberg; costumes by Clint Ramos, lighting by Jason Lyons, and original music and sound by Ryan Rumery.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: They say that if the great playwrights of the past were alive today, many of them would be writing for television. Classic Stage Company's new mounting of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Tea Alagic, makes a good argument that William Shakespeare's tragedy of teenage lust could have been submitted as a continuing arc for HBO's hit series, Girls. Although he may have had to submit it as W. Shakespeare in order to trick Lena Dunham into thinking he was a female twentysomething. And the best argument that it could succeed very nicely isElizabeth Olsen's neurotically charged Juliet. Dressed by designer Clint Ramos in a contemporary pretty white dress and black combat boots, she could pass for an NYU liberal arts grad stressing out over boyfriend problems. After all, Julian Cihi's somber, unemotional Romeo, though not without an attractively dark and sensitive quality, is certainly not the type that would be open about his feelings in a relationship.

Ben Brantley, New York Times: So please let it be noted that we did not walk away from this otherwise misguided take on Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers empty-handed. And who knows? Perhaps this production will inspire some young Tom Stoppard type to come up with his own "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"-style rewriting of "Romeo and Juliet," seen from the perspective of her wanton ladyship.

Linda Winer, Newsday: The production has a mad, playful streak that calls attention away from the drama at least as often as it amuses with its audacity. There is no balcony, and Tybalt gets stabbed by what appears to be a sharp little marble. Romeo wears a Pooh Bear head when he crashes the costume ball to fall fatally in love with Juliet. Daniel Davis keeps his dignity as Friar Laurence, which, under the circumstances, seems extraordinary.

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Olsen, decked out in an off-white baby-doll dress and black high-tops, has natural stage presence and a quietly innocent charm - and she really comes alive in her scenes with the Nurse, played with spunky Latina energy (and muttered ''Dios mio''s) by Daphne Rubin-Vega. But too often, she seems to be fending for herself, particularly in her scenes with Cihi, who is entirely too subdued and passionless as the supposedly impetuous and hyper-emotional Romeo. Seldom has there been a tale of less woe. D+

Robert Kahn, NBC New York: Any "Romeo & Juliet" will rise or fall on the chemistry of its leads, and in that light, the newest take on Shakespeare's tragic lovers, now open at Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company, ranks a notch or so ahead of its more-publicized Broadway counterpart.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: 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.

Matt Windman, amNY: Directed by Tea Alagic, the staging takes place on what appears to be a gym floor. With a line drawn down the center, perhaps meant to divide one family from the other, one might think the cast was about to play dodgeball. Except for a table and chairs, there is no other scenery. Not even a balcony. It also begins with an unnecessary, wordless prologue where the actors enter one by one and face the audience.

Robert Feldberg, The entire production feels like a collection of isolated ideas, with nothing connected stylistically or thematically to anything else. Following the similarly underwhelming "Romeo and Juliet" that debuted on Broadway in September, and the poorly received film version that opened last week, it's been a rough fall for young love.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: The Broadway Romeo and Juliet is built around Orlando Bloom. The Off-Broadway production is built around Elizabeth Olsen. Both were marketing decisions -if we hire a movie star, the people will come. Olsen, younger sister of the Olsen twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, is lovely to look at. Unlike the costumes of some of the other characters, hers - mostly simply diaphanous white frocks that could easily be undergarments - work with the character. (Why, though, was she wearing black combat boots?) But her performance is nothing extraordinary, not memorable enough to make up for the deficit in her partner.

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