Intiman's 'Romeo and Juliet' paints full picture of young love, loss
A review of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," one of four plays in the Intiman Theatre Festival. Through Aug. 26, 2012.
Seattle Times theater critic
'Romeo and Juliet'By William Shakespeare. Through Aug. 26 as part of the Intiman Theatre Festival at Intiman Playhouse, Seattle Center; $30 (800-982-2787 or www.ticketmaster.com).
In his "Romeo and Juliet," William Shakespeare tells us Juliet is a dewy 13-year-old. We can also surmise that her paramour Romeo ("Upon whose tender chin, as yet, no manlike beard there grew") is not much older.
Yet rarely does a stage production of this perennial romantic tragedy capture the full, blushing innocence, the exuberance and naiveté of lovers so young — and so rash, and doomed.
Intiman Theatre Festival's vital "Romeo and Juliet" is special that way, and one of the reasons to commend this pellucid, psychologically astute staging by director Allison Narver.
What hits you first is the dewiness of Fawn Ledesma's Juliet, the lovestruck maiden of the House of Capulet.
A pretty slip of a thing, she's a daddy's girl with a childish voice — a girl who twirls in her new party dress, playfully roughhouses with her cousin Tybalt (Shawn Law), and delights in the advances of a son of the rival House of Montague as one might in a thrilling new game.
The excellent Quinn Franzen's lanky and tousle-haired Romeo is her match in adolescent fervor and beauty. This fresh-faced and buoyant lad will, in a flash, slither up a tall pole to reach Juliet's balcony to charm her with some of the most glorious love poetry ever penned.
This sweet and oblivious youthfulness is offset by the dark shadow cast by Romeo's volatile clansman Mercutio (Michael Place). The couple's guilelessness is also framed by the anxieties and demands of the Verona elders who dote upon, yet fail, their young.
Intiman's large ensemble gives us strikingly textured portraits of Juliet's dotty, doting nurse (a fine departure for Marya Sea Kaminski), the well-meaning but bumbling Friar Laurence (Allen Fitzpatrick), a wan Lady Capulet (Carol Roscoe).
Even the addled gofer Peter, a minor role, is brought to detailed comic life by actor Burton Curtis.
One of Narver's best choices is to not make Lord Capulet (compelling Timothy McCuen Piggee) the stern patriarch. This father so dotes on his only child, Juliet, his eruptions of rage and grief become more affecting.
Minus any Italian Renaissance trimmings, the show moves swiftly on Jennifer Zeyl's concrete-industrial unit set, bracketed by side "balconies," and bisected by a second-story loft. All are put to good use, as are the coved recesses that allow for overlapping scenes.
More perplexing are the adornments on Deb Trout's crisp, white costumes, which could be images from family photos — a hard-to-decipher element of the set, as well.
Wade Madsen's graceful wisps of dance choreography, L.B. Morse's lighting and Matt Starritt's mercurial sound score also contribute to the whole.
Most tellingly, the emotional catharsis that "R & J" promises is truly delivered. We watch helplessly as Romeo and Juliet's innocence is tragically lost, "Like fire and powder/Which as they kiss consume." And we mourn that loss.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org