Although the two have the starring roles, some of the supporting cast members are far more impressive performers. Although the Capulets are a black family and Montagues white, director David Leveaux says the racial difference was unintentional. As Juliet’s father, he cast the larger than life Chuck Cooper whose presence and energy totally encompass the stage. Brent Carver (winner of the Tony for Kiss of The Spider Woman) is a sensitive and compassionate Friar Laurence. Looking like a British rocker, Christian Camargo is wonderful as the brash, volatile and witty Mercutio. And there’s Jayne Houdyshel who is superb in every role she plays. As the nurse, she brings humor and fun to the small role, lighting up the stage every time she’s on it.
The costumes are modern with Romeo and his friends in boots, t-shirts and leather jackets. Romeo enters on a motor cycle which delighted many in the audience. Romeo’s friends are brash and made several humorous sexual gestures. The stage design by Jesse Poleshuck is minimal as well, a few chairs and a wall that separates horizontally and a wooden platform/ walkway which serves as Juliet’s balcony.
This 2013-2014 season includes close to 20 presentations of Shakespeare’s works, including a ballet of The Tempest, scheduled for production. There will always be Shakespeare playing somewhere. The production of Romeo and Juliet at the Rodgers Theater is a wonderful introduction for high school students to the work of The Bard. However, school has just started and teachers don’t generally begin the term with Shakespeare. I wonder if this production will be there when they get up to it; but maybe Bloom will be enough of a draw.