I’m always late to the party—so it is predictable for me to see a show days before it's closing. But Romeo and Juliet, which ends on Sunday, deserves an audience. The first Broadway revival of Shakespeare’s tragedy in 36 years features Orlando Bloom (of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean fame) and Condola Rashad (Tony nominations for A Trip to Bountiful and Stick Fly) as the star-crossed lovers. While the costumes and scenery often mimic a modern-day West Side Story theme—with Romeo and his cohorts clad in ripped dungarees and high-tops, and Roman heads as part of the graffiti scrawled on cement walls—the classic words continue to haunt in a edited version that lasts two hours and 20 minutes.
Rashad sparkles as Juliet and aptly depicts the luminescence of the young in love, while Bloom underlines Romeo’s idealistic romanticism with the very real awkwardness and uncertainty first meetings and the initial flickers of love face. Rashad is especially enchanting and plays Juliet not as a simple girl but one who is frank and honest—and full of courage in the pursuit of something of her own. The casting of an African American Juliet with a Caucasian Romeo helps explain the animosity between the families, but doesn’t register as part of their romance. Supporting characters offer spirited turns—with Christian Camargo infusing Mercutio with the badassnes of Johnny Rotten and Justin Guarini (who survived his American Idol notoriety) a well-mannered but boring Paris, the epitome of a parent’s idea of the perfect fiancé.
David Leveaux’s production is full of rich details—the release of a bird, like an uneasy premonition, that flies out over an abandoned beach, where chairs lie discarded on their sides; a dispirited Romeo who recklessly drives his motorcycle on the stage; a lavish masked bacchanal of fire and spirited dancing where Romeo and Juliet catch each other’s eye with half-smiles. Despite a second act that seems to yield into tragedy too quickly, this Romeo and Juliet is parting too soon.