Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad Head to the Big Screen as Romeo and Juliet

Last fall Orlando Bloom made his Broadway debut playing opposite two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet”.  This month the production made its debut in movie theaters nationwide as part of Broadway HD.  Broadway HD combines the experience of The Great White Way with Hollywood, taking a live production and showing it in a different medium.

Filmed at the end of its Broadway run, “Romeo and Juliet” is playing a limited engagement in theaters, which ends on February 19.  Seeing this production when it first premiered at the Richard Rogers Theater, I felt the show was a bit comme ci comme ça, but after seeing this production in the theaters, I felt that it had come full circle.  Both Bloom and Rashad seemed more comfortable with the language.  The production in its entirety, which seemed to not be fully complete when I saw it, exhibited a richness that wasn’t present when I saw it last year.

Another aspect of this film version was the distinct difference of viewing “Romeo and Juliet” on stage as opposed to seeing it on the screen.  On Broadway the audience is part of the experience; the actors are performing for you.  Watching it on screen I got the sensation of a voyeur – a gate crasher sneaking through the side door who quietly watches the show unfold.  The excitement wasn’t as palpable; however it was still there.

If you ask me Broadway HD is a brilliant concept.  Not everyone has the luxury of living in New York City and those that do don’t always have the opportunity to see productions while they’re making their run.  Broadway HD allows Broadway to be accessible to everyone no matter if you are in Atlanta, Denver or Brooklyn.  I’m looking forward to watching future productions courtesy of this innovative series.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

 

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Macabre and Metaphysics Intertwine in Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater

We are all familiar with the story of Macbeth, the Scottish warlord who would become king partly on the count of the Three Witches.  After a victorious battle, Macbeth encounters the Three Witches and upon doing so is told he will be king.  Macbeth and his wife then plot to murder Duncan, the current monarch.  Under the guise of merriment and despite Macbeth’s reservations, he and his wife welcome Duncan and his kinsmen into their home, get the king’s chamberlains drunk and assassinate the king.   Newly crowned, Macbeth descends from sovereign to psychopath murdering his loyal friend Banquo.  A second caucus with the Three Witches only heightens Macbeth’s paranoia and prompts him to have the family of Macduff, a fellow kinsman, murdered.  Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth, overcome with guilt, plummets into depression and begins to sleepwalk.  Eventually she commits suicide.  Macbeth is ultimately vanquished by Macduff and Duncan’s eldest son Malcolm becomes king.

MB4No matter the interpretation, the theme of the supernatural is constantly present in “Macbeth”.  You can’t get away from it, but what makes Shakespeare’s work so genius is that the interpretation of his plays depends on the road you take.  Director Jack O’Brien’s offering of “Macbeth” chooses to take the metaphysical path.   In this version, the Three Witches aren’t just a trio of wacky soothsayers convening around a cauldron. Oh no. These conniving necromancers morph into other characters on stage, thus taking on the personas of puppet masters ensuring their marionettes move their strings in the exact order they desire. The witches’ almost ubiquitous presence calls into question the subject of fate and action.  How much of Macbeth’s destiny relied on his own ambition or that of the Three Witches? Was Macbeth’s belief in the witches’ prediction responsible for all the events that followed? How responsible are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth for their actions if their actions were just pit stops along their destined path?  Jack O’Brien’s interpretation of this classic tragedy sets the mind ablaze with questions about the workings of the universe and the individual’s role in it to create good or evil. What I find most intriguing about this production is that O’Brien doesn’t attempt to supply the audience with answers, the answers you must discover for yourself.

The visuals of “Macbeth” only intensify the mystical happenings on stage.  From the moment the audience takes their seats and views the carved mandala, they become keenly aware of the conjuring set to take place.  And just like the actors, we are at the witches’ mercy, forced to watch two lovers plunge headlong into the abyss of destruction.  Along with the sacred symbol of the universe, the production is draped in the primary colors of black, white and blood red – hues that have meaning in the occult.  The lighting provides a stark perception of the actors making the tragic events more exaggerated and the imagery more daunting.  The costumes and sets courtesy of Catherine Zuber and Scott Pask produce a minimalist, sleek quality without dedicating itself to one particular time period.

MB3And what of the thespians who resurrect the bubbling and boiling characters full of toil and trouble? Color me impressed.  The vernacular of Shakespeare is a language we learn in high school and unless you take courses in it in college, there it stays. If not performed correctly, the rich wording of Shakespeare’s prose can come off like pubescent ramblings of students looking for a mid-term grade.  Some reincarnations of Shakespeare’s plays I have witnessed as of late have possessed this puerile quality.  Not so with this production.  Led by Ethan Hawke, the cast as a whole is more fair than foul.  I’ve viewed productions where actors performed Shakespeare as if they were competing for top prize in “Who Can Scream Loudest.”  Hawke’s Macbeth is a combination of shrewd underplaying offset by fierce outbursts of emotion.  He is the personification of a man slipping into darkness.  As Lady Macbeth, Anne-Marie Duff is sensational.  She embodies the grace of a queen and psyche of a sociopath. Together Hawke and Duff brilliantly represent one word…karma.  Malcolm Gets, John Glover and Byron Jennings portray the pied pipers of wizardry in this numinous production.  Although they look like rejects from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, the sorcerers don’t just play to win, they play for keeps.  The havoc they render adds the spice that makes this supernatural gumbo complete.  On a surprising note, I was pleased with Daniel Sunjata’s Macduff.  Though a bit heavy handed in his delivery at times, he proved to me that he is more than just a pretty face.   What I enjoyed most about the production was its fluidness.  It moved like a choreographed dance, constantly adding layers.

MBChristmas hovers in the air, tis the season to be jolly, but for Hawke and company tis the time to be wicked, the naughty reign supreme at The Vivian Beaumont Theater.  “Macbeth” has a limited run and ends on January 12.  Take a break from tidings of cheer and take a walk down the paranormal path.  Without a doubt, this production is worth seeing.

Photos: T. Charles Erickson

Macbeth Gets Abstract

Pablo Picasso once stated, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”   By using color, line and form, abstract artists, like Picasso, create works that are considered free from traditional visual references.  The deconstruction of the customary form allows the viewer to interpret the art however they desire.  This fall, the timeless words of Shakespeare are receiving an abstract spin courtesy of director Jack O’Brien.  Macbeth, starring Ethan Hawke, is playing at Lincoln Center Theater until January 12.  Steeped in colors of black, blood red and white, this production explores the adverse realities that plagued Macbeth’s mind thrusting the audience into the eye of a nightmare.  But do not believe me; see the faces of Macbeth for yourself!

To learn more about Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater please visit the following sites:

Website: http://www.lct.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LincolnCenterTheater

Twitter: @LCTheater

Romeo and Juliet, #TheBomb or #Bomb…

When it comes to love stories, none is more well-known than that of Juliet and her Romeo.  William Shakespeare literally wrote the book (or should I say play) on the notion of star-crossed lovers.  The adaptations of this classic are endless, yet the public never tires of the story of love gone awry.  So it goes that after 36 years, William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet has returned to the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

0306_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegDirector David Leveaux’s version of Romeo and Juliet takes Shakespearian English and injects it into modern setting.  Another added twist to the original plot is the subject of race – the Montagues are a white family and the Capulets are black.  Hollywood hottie Orlando Bloom and Broadway sensation Condola Rashad play the young, ill-fated lovers.  All these elements should’ve have produced results that were more explosive than a NASA rocket launch to the moon.  Instead, it was more the equivalent of high school chemistry nerds experimenting after class – yeah; there was a little smoke, but no real fire (except for the random bursts of fire on stage).

Although I wasn’t expecting Romeo and Juliet to declare their love on Facebook, I also didn’t expect the term ‘modern’ to be interpreted in such a banal fashion.  The set, which consisted of a ginormous bell, an elevated plank of wood for a balcony, and a wall that contained a Renaissance secco, was uninspiring and a poor match for the lush verse of one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works.  The first time Orlando Bloom appears on stage he is riding a motorcycle, and while that might be modern it is also clichéd.  At the Capulet’s soiree, I thought the choreography would carry an element of hip-hop or krunking, something other than the interpretations of African dance that were exhibited on stage. The nurse walking a bicycle to deliver a message to Romeo and the parkour climbing of the graffiti-ridden mural does add a nod to a more modern era; however these devices failed to deliver on such a promising idea.

0024_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegThe cast seem to hurry through the dialogue as if they were just trying to get it over with.  Shakespearean English is a mouthful, literally, but the pace was so rushed that some of the beauty of Shakespeare‘s poetry was lost in this interpretation.  While Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad certainly looked as if they had the potential to rival the flames that occasionally appeared on stage, their scenes together were undersupplied of the heat necessary for me to believe that these two would rather die than live life apart.  Brent Carver, Christian Camargo and Jayne Houdyshell’s portrayals of Friar Laurence, Mercutio and the Nurse were an absolute pleasure to watch and brought balance to this production.

Director Baz Luhrmann attempted a modern interpretation Romeo and Juliet on screen in 1996, back when I thought modern versions of Shakespeare were a sacrilege, and it actually became one of my favorite depictions of this classic love story.  Perhaps Leveaux should’ve taken a few notes from this film.  After 36 years, this Romeo and Juliet ascended to no grander heights nor did it plateau to a great theater low.  All and all it was steady and flat, just like the boards of the balcony – wooden and just plain regular.

Photos:  Carol Rosseg

F.A.M.E NYC Romeo and Juliet Ticket Giveaway

You didn’t have to read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in high school to know that it is the most famous story of unrequited love to ever exist.  Countless renditions of this classic story have been told on stage and screen with 36 years passing since it’s been on Broadway, but this fall the story of the ill-fated lovers of Verona will be back on a Broadway stage once again.  Romeo and Juliet begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 24 and opens on September 19. This latest interpretation of Romeo and Juliet is directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux and stars film star Orlando Bloom, making his Broadway debut, and two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in the lead roles.  Shakespearean English will be spoken; however the setting will have a modern aesthetic.

As this iconic love story is first introduced to us in school, Tixs for Students is running a special promotion: A limited number of $20 tickets for each performance are available for college students. Tickets may be purchased in advance either at the box office with valid ID or online, exclusively through TIX4STUDENTS.COM. Limit of two tickets per order; price does not include facility fee. Educators can also purchase a limited number of $20 tickets for each performance are available for educators. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the box office with valid ID.  PLEASE NOTE: Educator tickets are only available for purchase at the box office. Limit of two tickets per order; price does not include facility fee.

BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE STUDENT TO WIN A FREE PAIR OF TICKETS TO SEE ROMEO AND JULIET!  All you have to do is leave a comment answering these two simple questions:

  1.  Who is Condola Rashads’ mother? (Hint:  She played Bill Cosby’s wife on an iconic ‘80s sitcom)
  2. Who played Orlando Bloom’s father in Kingdom of Heaven? (Hint:  He also played Zeus, father of the Gods, in the remake of Clash of the Titans and in the sequel Wrath of the Titans)

Comment as many times as you like to increase your chances of winning.  The winner will be announced on August 20 at 5 pm EST.  GOOD LUCK FAMERS!

To learn more about Romeo and Juliet, check out the following sites:

Website: www.RomeoAndJulietBroadway.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/RomeoJulietBway

Twitter: www.Twitter.com/RomeoJulietBway

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/RomeoJulietBway

Google+: Plus.google.com/+RomeoJulietBway

Spring Dreams with Shakespeare

When the first act of Blessed Unrest’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream ended with a spirited interpretative dance to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, it became evident that this was not my mother’s interpretation of William Shakespeare.  But in truth, the signs were already there.  From the first scene of the play, the physicality in which the actors approached the material changed my perception of this play.  Instead of focusing on the dialogue, I was more interested in the emotions of the characters brilliantly displayed by the actors.  The almost clichéd idea of loving someone that doesn’t return your love and the trickery one might devise to change that situation spells for a bad romance indeed.

Jessica Burr

Blessed Unrest is a non-profit experimental theatre company that has been generating original work since 1999.  Director Jessica Burr has been running the company for nine years.  “What really grabs me about this story is the love relationships,” Jessica states about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “So we worked a lot [the relationships] to find the heart of them.  Often times they are glossed over, but we really wanted to get to the meat of it and make it very real and very passionate.”

This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream definitely has passion.  In fact, it is all heart, soul and fluid movement.  “As a company we train every month in physical theater.  I like to see bodies moving.  It’s just pleasing,” Jessica explains as she smiles. The actors seamlessly weaved through the production playing multiple characters.  The authenticity in which they approach each character led me to believe the cast took a class in multiple personality syndrome.  Another enjoyable aspect was the transition of Lysander, played by Stephen Drabicki, to a hearing impaired young man and the company’s incorporation of sign language into the script.  It added another layer to an already intricate story.

At the core of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are the themes of love and obsession which makes it perfect for a non-profit troupe like Blessed Unrest.  It could be said that art and the business of entertainment is a bad romance.  So often artists remain in the theater because they are in love or even obsessed by what they do.  Unfortunately as much as the arts are coveted in this country, our government doesn’t provide the financial support to the arts as other countries.  It is sad to think that in a city as creative as Manhattan that an artist simply cannot live as an artist and have their craft be their only occupation.  The love of breathing life into new and classic material is inherent with the members of Blessed Unrest, many of whom were in attendance on the opening night lending their support in the audience and various off-stage roles.  “There’s something to be said for obstacles and challenges, and I really do think it makes us stronger and makes us more creative because we have to find ways to make money,” Jessica says.

Blessed Unrest’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be playing at The Interart Theatre, 500 West 52nd Street, until April 12.  Blessed Unrest claims to be theatre for the adventurous, and their declaration did not disappoint.  Also, with ticket prices set at $15, it is a journey that is affordable for every New Yorker.  FAMERS I suggest an evening frolicking in Shakespeare’s magical woods with this innovative company.  I found it to be a dream that is hard to forget. 

To learn more visit www.blessedunrest.org.