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Two Shows, Both Alike
'Romeo and Juliet'
by S.E. Arnold
February 13-14, 2004
-- Aronoff Center/Cincinnati, Ohio
Like the tempering sound
of the muted strings that dissolves the strident intervals warring in
the brass and woodwinds of Prokofievís "Princeís Command" theme,
the dramatic focus of Victoria Morganís "Romeo and Juliet" on
the transcendence of love clears the clamor of interpretations that want
to cloud Shakespeareís play.
In addition to its division into three acts and fourteen scenes, the use
of scrims and massive, movable staircases and arched causeways to depict
Verona, the Market Square, and the Capulet ballroom, balcony, and sepulcher
further bracket the balletís space. Moreover, the scrims for stone, plaster,
or orchard that blunt all but short-sighted prospects, the abundant elegance
of the Renaissance costumes, the huge and varied cast, the carnival atmosphere
of troubadours, harlots, and the ribald antics of Mercutio and Benvolio
combine with the violence of the Montague-Capulet rivalry to illustrate
the confining material world of Romeo and Juliet.
In contrast to the crowded, frenzied, and strife gorged space of the market
square scenes, the open space of the balcony scene encouraged the blissful
possibilities inspired by the new horizons sighted through the zoom of
spontaneous love. Blessed with two casts of lovers ďboth alike in dignity,Ē
the experienced Kristi Capps and Dmitri Trubchanov, at once tender and
intense, brought the audiences of the Friday and sold-out Saturday evening
performances to their feet. Also alike in audience response, the Saturday
and Sunday matinee performances of Tricia Sundbeck and recently promoted
soloist Anthony Krutzkamp, added the excitement of seeing emerging artists.
Aptly wraith-like in appearance, Sundbeckís dark flowing hair amplified
her facial expressions and by contrast made her pale features continuous
with the lightness of her costume. This faintness of aspect underscored
Julietís vulnerability, and when combined with Sundbeckís dramatic ability,
Julietís rapture, commitment, suffering, and fatal resolve crossed the
distance between vicarious and immediate experience. Krutzkampís shy grin
met his technical capacities to portray a dewy young man given to consuming
rhapsodies of bravado jumps and beats. Yet each matinee performance gave
witness to the self-conscious Romeoís very first kiss.
The kisses (etcetera) accumulated by wenching wizards, Mercutio and Benvolio,
however, buggers any accounting. Danced with the energy and playfulness
implied by the characterís name, the Mercutios given on alternating performances
by Mike Wardlaw and Zack Grubbs provided the energy that warmed the theatre.
On the other hand, Mercutioís vulgarity and puckish provocations ultimately
set the choleric Tybalt on fire. Whether danced by Jay Goodlett, whose
stage presence always convinces, whatever his role, or Aaron C. Thayer,
whose likeness to Lukas Hoving (the first Iago in The Mooreís Pavane)
added an extra measure of evil to Tybalt, both dancers found a dimension
of his character deeper than a cardboard ĎPrince of Cats.í
The finest Prince to cross the stage, however, was Frederic Franklin,
artistic director emeritus of the Cincinnati Ballet and living legend,
in the role of Friar Lawrence. And, without Regina Cerimele-Mechley doubling
as the nurse and fight choreographer, Morganís "Romeo and Juliet"
would have been neither as exciting nor as convincing.
In terms of the regal and the legendary, however, Prokofievís score for
"Romeo and Juliet" manifests an Olympian ideal with its bright
and heroic sound. Under the baton of Maestro Carmen DeLeone the Prokofiev
sound reached its celebrated evocative and graphic potential. Whether
describing the whirl and confusion of the fight scenes, the playfulness
of Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio, the soaring love of Romeo and Juliet,
the clowning antics of the troubadours, the haunting dread of Julietís
desperation, the optimism of the morning serenade, or the monumental weight
of the funeral scene, the orchestra and the artistry of the soloists verified
the dramatic and soul-stirring potency of the music.
Forceful, too, among the telling aspects of Morganís "Romeo and Juliet"
are its synoptic tableaus. Caught in cones of bleaching light, each of
the eight tableaus punctuate the themes of enmity, death, the rush of
love, and loveís priority. The repeated image of a male figure cradling
the body of a dead young woman - the Dukeís display of the child victim
of the Capulet-Montague melee in the first scene, which foreshadows Lord
Capuletís display of the Ďdeadí Juliet - amends the divine necessity implied
by the loverís Ďstar-crossedí fate to allow contingent terms. Fate in
Morganís "Romeo and Juliet" modulates into the false necessity
of lustful appetites and the habits of social convention. What, in the
eyes of Capulet, is Julietís willful disobedience of his divinely sanctioned
authority and hence evil is rather the rightful exercise of her agency.
In Morganís "Romeo and Juliet," this emphasis on the agency,
the free will of the lovers against the crass necessities and oppressive
habits of their milieu made the death each gave for their love of the
other possible and believable. Picturing the possibility of such transcendence
makes the ballet both soulfully wrenching and assuring.
Edited by jeNAI
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