American Ballet Theatre - 'Romeo and Juliet'
Two Juliets and a Valedictory
by Jerry Hochman
July 3, 2004 matinee and evening -- Metropolitan Opera House, New York City
American Ballet Theatre ended its
Met season with two final performances of "Romeo and Juliet."
The matinee performance featured ABT's latest sweetheart, Xiomara Reyes,
while the evening's Juliet was Irina Dvorovenko, one of its veteran stars.
Both performances were technically stunning, and at times even riveting.
Given the level of expertise that was on display, the fact that I found
both portrayals somewhat less than perfect is not so much a criticism
as a simple observation. Between the two, Reyes's performance was more
interesting, if less accomplished. The evening's performance was also
memorable for the valedictory of Ethan Brown, who was retiring after some
23 years with ABT.
Reyes's performance was wonderful. She gave MacMillan's steps a gentle fluidity that matched the mood to perfection; there was nothing that she didn't do right. And she did not have to act Juliet -- she was Juliet. But there are little things -- no, they are big things -- that can only come with time. While Reyes was very much the sweet child, then the infatuated girl, then the willful adolescent, then the tragic victim of fate, the more subtle indicia of accomplishment were not yet there. When, in Act I Scene 2, the nurse (portrayed by Susan Jones with her usual skill, grace, and humor) introduces Juliet to her changing body, Juliet's face is supposed to register something -- recognition, or astonishment, or whatever. The image is only a split second long, but it is an integral part of the portrayal. But Reyes's face didn't change at all; she just lifted her head up, and stared into space.
More significantly, though, in
Act III Scene 1, when MacMillan famously has Juliet sit at the edge of
her bed, relatively motionless, trying to decide what she can do to get
out of the predicament she's in, Juliet can't just sit there waiting for
her next cue. The audience has to see her think, and it has to see the
light bulb turn on in her head when she realizes that Friar Laurence might
be able to help. I can't begin to say how to do it; I only know that the
best Juliets I've seen not only know that they're supposed to do it, they
can convey the entire thought process to the audience. Reyes can't do
Carlos Molina was surprisingly
warm as the evening's Paris, a striking contrast to his Tybalt in the
afternoon. And to show once again that there are no small parts, Ilona
McHugh, in the evening's performance, completely altered the usual portrayal
of Rosalind. Hers had a personality; a nice personality -- aristocratic
but not haughty, friendly rather than aloof. It was a surprising, and
welcome, change. Luciana Paris's harlot led the afternoon trio, but, in
the evening performance, Sasha Dmochowski, with exuberance falling just
short of being over-the-top, was most effective. Of those I could identify,
Sarah Lane stood out as one of Juliet's friends in the evening performance.
And, again in the same performance, Veronika Part as Lady Capulet made
you believe there really was something going on between her and Tybalt.
But Brown was there, seemingly
every night, doing -- had the fates been a bit different -- what I might
have been able to do. His performances were always extraordinarily human,
not superhuman. Maybe he just couldn't do the superhuman (I recall an
early performance where he had a very tough time lifting a promising corps
dancer. Maybe it was then that he decided to focus on being a character
actor/dancer). In any event, what he did, he did very well. And for someone
who's gone to ballet performances for a long time, there was a comfort
in knowing that, after all these years, he was still there. He'll be missed.
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