Patrick Laffoon and Kara McNally reenact the Seinfeld episode “The Puffy Shirt.”
Patrick Laffoon and Kara McNally reenact the Seinfeld episode “The Puffy Shirt.”

Literature’s most famous romance is a double-edged
Its brand-name appeal will lure even the most casual theater
fan away from CSI reruns, but coupled with that recognition is a
set of preconceived high standards. In Nevada Repertory Company’s
production of Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Jim Bernardi takes the reins
of the classic, playing with convention for wildly uneven results.

The production is plagued by a slew of strange decisions. For one,
it seems to exist outside of time. The older characters resemble
mid-20th century aristocracy, but Romeo and his pals cat around in
Elizabethan apparel—if they manufactured a line of Elizabethan
apparel exclusively for Wal-Mart. Both concept and execution are
distracting. For example, Romeo’s primary look consists of a
T-shirt with swashbuckling sleeves of an entirely different material
sewed on as an afterthought.

Adding to the head-scratching is a barrage of
attention-span-insulting music cues, possibly culled from an iPod
playlist labeled “grocery store.” It’s difficult to
say what’s worse: the incongruity of the songs with the text or
the fact that most of the songs are just inherently dreadful. If you
found your daughter’s apparently lifeless body, would 3 Doors
Down best capture the moment? To set the mood for fair Verona, how
about Counting Crows half-assing their way through a Joni Mitchell

The title roles, of course, bear the weight of centuries’
worth of reference and parody. As Romeo, Patrick Laffoon is facile with
the poetry and earnest without being cloying. He is well-cast and
admirably bears the heavy burden of familiarity and expectation. The
conception of his counterpart is more troubling. Kara McNally has the
ideal look for Juliet and the right delicate sweetness, but the
characterization misses something. After meeting Romeo, Juliet should
see the world anew with wide-eyed exuberance. She needs to be a fiery
complement to his impetuous nature. As the play progresses, McNally
gathers some steam, and she grasps the language well, but overall,
she’s too restrained. The characterization may be symptomatic of
a larger problem. As Mercutio, Brian Annis is capable of grabbing an
audience by the lapels—or by the crotch. The trouble is that he
doesn’t do it enough. There are a handful of roles in dramatic
literature that give unrestricted license to bounce off the walls. This
is one of them. By not cranking up the dial, someone here, whether
it’s Annis or Bernardi, has missed an opportunity.

The biggest miss, however, may be the dynamic between Romeo and
Friar Lawrence (Brad D. Martin). Textually, the Friar is the insane
architect of the most harebrained scheme in all of English literature,
and Romeo is just desperate enough to consider it. In this production,
however, it’s as if Friar Lawrence turned to the religious life
because there were layoffs at the accounting firm. Again, the problem
isn’t necessarily acting. It’s that the characterization
makes no sense.

To be fair, the production has a playful spirit that makes stretches
of it fun to watch, and there are some genuine bright spots. The fight
sequences are excellent, with some of the best stage combat ever to
grace a local stage. As Juliet’s Nurse, Amanda Alvey makes the
most of things, earning every laugh the text allows. As Lord Capulet,
James Mardock is wonderfully fluent in Shakespearean dialogue. In fact,
Mardock is so persuasive that he unwittingly underscores the rest of
the show’s shortcomings. When Capulet flips out over
Juliet’s disobedience, it’s hard not to be in his corner.
Maybe she should have just married that other guy after all.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *