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Some "Romeo & Juliet" Reviews...

The show is officially open, and with the holiday behind me I am hoping that life will slow its pace a bit. The first of the reviews are hitting the street and they are mixed.

You can read the Time Out review here, or :

Romeo and Juliet

The core couple in Djukic’s rendition of Shakespeare’s impetuous doomed lovers would make the whole endeavor worthwhile no matter what went on around them. When Wedoff and Holzfeind share the stage, they give off the sense that they too have lost track of the world outside of themselves. In the opening scenes, Holzfeind’s introspective Romeo mopes over unrequited puppy love, while Wedoff’s indistinctive parent-pleaser Juliet seems content to sleepwalk through her days.

As soon as they spot each other, however, fresh passion is awakened within them. In the exquisite intimacy of their scenes together and the anguish they display when kept apart, the two actors exude a simultaneous confusion and elation; this Juliet and her Romeo may not fully understand the rush they induce in one another, but they’d gladly die before giving it up.

What goes on around them, it turns out, is pretty solid and fairly straightforward. Staged on Martin Andrew’s skeletal semicircle of platforms and scaffolding, with Keith Parham’s stark lights setting the mood, Djukic’s R & J is neither period nor revisionist, not too stuffy and not too contemporary (with the possible exception of Peter DeFaria’s oddly tough-guy Friar Laurence).

The director’s only grand flourish caps off his simple, sound staging: a simple lack of sound. The denouement in the Capulet tomb is wordless and compressed. Though it seems like heresy, it succeeds; watching the needless, heedless deaths play out in quicksilver silence is a rash and sudden lightning bolt to the gut.

As well as the Chicago Reader review, or :

The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
When: Through 12/21: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM,
Phone: 773-347-1375
Price: $20-$25

Eastern Europeans seem to have an advantage over native English speakers when it comes to directing Shakespeare. I've seen loads of wonderful productions by Americans, Brits, and so on, but two of my three all-time favorites were created by artists from the former Soviet bloc. And now, with Zeljko Djukich's TUTA Theatre staging of The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, it's three of four. Djukich, once of Yugoslavia, doesn't exhibit the contempt familiarity breeds in anglophone directors, who often feel compelled to search for novelty in the Bard by taking him apart onstage. Maybe just reading Shakespeare in the original is deconstruction enough for him. Instead, Djukich and his talented cast--most particularly Matthew Holzfeind, who adds Romeo to a string of extraordinary performances--engage the tale of star-crossed lovers completely, and what they come up with can be astonishing. Little things like identifying Juliet's father as physically abusive make a great deal clear. The big thing, though, is Djukich's recognition that this play, no less than Hamlet, is about words: their misuse, overuse, and failure. In fact, he reveals Romeo and Juliet as a kind of rough draft for Hamlet, and his beautiful final scene gets to the heart of the earlier play's tragedy by way of a profound strategy echoing a line from the later play: "The rest is silence."

--Tony Adler

There is also the Tribune review :

Why art thou 3 hours, Romeo?
By Nina Metz | Special to the Tribune

Is it radical or just stubborn that TUTA Theatre artistic director Zeljko Djukich believes there is an audience out there for a three-hour version of a play most of us know backward and forward?

Djukich has pulled Shakespeare's full title from the dust bin—"The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet"—and you should consider that a wordy, neon warning of the show's bloated presence.

Do Djukich and his ensemble justify the endurance test? Ninety-five percent of the time, I'd say no. This isn't a production that unearths new insights or potency. Visually, there is little to draw you in, and Matthew Holzfeind and Alice Wedoff are spark-free as the teenage couple. Too often, they resort to the kind of swooping gestures and breathless line readings that can crop up in American productions of Shakespeare. If London's Globe Theatre has shown us anything, it is that Shakespeare's words pack the biggest punch when delivered plainly. Carolyn Hoerdemann as Nurse and Peter DeFaria as Friar Laurence are the only cast members who show how it should be done.

Djukich almost redeems himself by the end. Almost. The play's final scene is envisioned as an echoey, shadowy chamber of death where the lovers reunite. The lighting, sound design and performances are in sync, and all that incessant talking is silenced. Suddenly you're immersed in a moment of theatrical intensity that envelopes the room.

Terrific scene. But judging by the empty seats visible after intermission, it comes far too late in the game.

And finally, the New City Stage, which is :

The high point of of Zeljko Djukic’s production takes place in its very first moments, when two suspicious Capulet servants circle one another ambivalently and vulnerably, creating a tension and hypersensitivity that could have set an exquisite emotional compass for the play, but unfortunately the aura evaporates almost immediately. Instead, the show feels increasingly less controlled and meaningful, as actors rush on and offstage with little palpable motivation and with a real sense of free-floating anxiety as they attempt to maintain one high note of emotional timbre. There are a few exceptions, notably Carolyn Hoerdmann’s refreshingly earthy Nurse and Peter DeFaria as a Friar Laurence who creates something close to a moral center of the play; but overall the actors seem antsy rather than commanding, leaning on or clinging awkwardly to the poles and scaffolding that comprise the set, so that the structure onstage ends up feeling less like a minimalist modernization of Elizabethan technical theater than a kind of cage or prison. To put it much more simply, the show seems to be stuck in the text rather than deploying or appropriating it. (Monica Westin)

Monica Westin Says:

November 26th, 2008 at 4:13 pm
I need to add as a postscript that I was not able to attend all of this performance; unfortunately, this review is based on the first act alone and I apologize for presenting it otherwise. Obviously it’s impossible for me to comment on the second half, and I regret having relied on friends’ testimonies about the second half without being explicit about it.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 28th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
Hmm! How are you feeling about the production?
Nov. 28th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
Hey baby! I was thinking of you yesterday and feeling thankful to have you in my life.

I feel good about this production and also feel that I do not have a sense of it as a whole. It is such a big piece and I am not in large chunks of it, nor can I sneak out to watch those chunks from the house...so it feels hard to be objective. I think there are some fine performances, including that of Juliet (one of our company members) and the Nurse and Friar (who are both amazing). I feel that my own performance is solid...but not brilliant. I'd like to be brilliant and also realize that this is not a show about Lady Capulet and there is only so much that the text allows for the audience's discovery of her (or relationship to her) - as well as time and energy that the director could give to her development. I've built a history for her and an emotional life...but I don't know how much of that plays or matters to the whole. In the end, I am guessing that most folks who are not somehow interested in me specifically likely do not notice or remember Lady C all that much.

All in all I'm proud of my work and have enjoyed working with the Bard. I hope I get a chance to do so again, perhaps with a role that has more space for complexity of form and hue.

I wish I could box the show up and send it to you so that you could see it and could comment. I so respect your opinion and have such fun sharing heady, arty discussions with you.

Kisses to you - and gratitude for your presence in my life. ~ J
Nov. 28th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Aww. I'm thankful for you as well. I miss you.

I admire that you're putting your integrity and craft into the role. I remember noticing something about Lady Capulet in the Baz Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet---she was played to be really memorable, but she only had a few moments in which the attention was truly on her. I hope you soon have an opportunity that gives more room for your powers!

I hope the rest of your run goes well!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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