Romeo and Juliet
The real battle at the new Broadway revival of “Romeo and Juliet” has nothing to do with Capulets and the Montagues. It’s actually between Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, the show’s young, photogenic leads, who are offering flavorless performances full of fakery, and the adult actors in supporting roles who wipe the floor with them.
“Romeo and Juliet” kicks off a marathon of Shakespeare shows this fall, including the Globe Theatre’s all-male “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III,” the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female “Julius Caesar,” Julie Taymor’s staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Lincoln Center Theater’s “Macbeth” with Ethan Hawke and an Off-Broadway “Romeo and Juliet” with Elizabeth Olsen.
In David Leveaux’s modern-dress production of Shakespeare’s teenage tragedy, the Capulet family has been cast with black actors and the Montague family with white actors. This creates problems from the very start.
Unlike “West Side Story,” the musical inspired by “Romeo and Juliet,” the source of conflict in “Romeo and Juliet” is an ancient familial grudge and not racism. Leveaux’s casting is not color-blind but inappropriately color-conscious for a play in which color shouldn’t have a role.
It is housed at the newly refurbished Richard Rodgers Theatre, where the show’s spare set design looks incomplete, and many of the lines, which are often accompanied by live music, get lost from the stage to the audience.
Bloom, after making a bafflingly cheesy entrance on a motorcycle, gives an empty, uninteresting performance marked by shrill line readings. Rashad wears Juliet’s naïveté like a mask that prevents her from offering any other facial expressions. At least she’s graceful.
The production does feature strong supporting turns from the animated Jayne Houdyshell as Juliet’s nurse, the commanding Chuck Cooper as an uncompromising Lord Montague and a stunned-looking Brent Carver as Friar Lawrence.
If you look hard enough, you might even find Justin Guarini, who acquits himself rather well as Juliet’s suitor Paris.
“Romeo and Juliet” plays through Jan. 12 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. 226 W. 46th St., 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.