Another day, another modern-dress Romeo and Juliet. But this one, directed by Tea Alagic at Off Broadway’s Classic Stage Company, seems to have run out of ideas after the couple’s offbeat meet-cute at the Capulet masquerade ball: Romeo (Julian Cihi, enervated and bland) dons a Winnie the Pooh head to flirt with Juliet (Elizabeth Olsen). No, it doesn’t make much sense. But it’s an arrestingly offbeat image in a sadly amateurish revival.
Nothing else in Alagic’s production makes much sense either — and the cast seems to have been left to its own devices to create their characters and block their scenes. Why else do the leads play out the balcony scene wandering around the stage — and ignoring the upstage platforms and chairs that serve no identifiable purpose? Why does Romeo take off his shirt after announcing that he needs to leave for his banishment in Mantua? Why does T.R. Knight’s bearded Mercutio seem to have wandered in from a different play? Why does this production drop the famous prologue and the Prince’s closing lines? Why do the feuding Montagues and Capulets need to keep running to an on-stage bucket to grab the fake blood packets for their deadly fight? That last one, actually, may be explained by the contemporary costumes (by Clint Ramos): There’s no place to hide anything in skinny jeans.
Olsen, decked out in an off-white baby-doll dress and black high-tops, has natural stage presence and a quietly innocent charm — and she really comes alive in her scenes with the Nurse, played with spunky Latina energy (and muttered ”Dios mio”s) by Daphne Rubin-Vega. But too often, she seems to be fending for herself, particularly in her scenes with Cihi, who is entirely too subdued and passionless as the supposedly impetuous and hyper-emotional Romeo. Seldom has there been a tale of less woe. D+