Arts Roméo et Juliette
posted by February 7 at 10:42 AMon
You have five more chances to see Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Roméo et Juliette, a West Coast premiere of the mid-nineties production by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot. I don’t recommend Saturday at 2 pm, because you should be caucusing at that hour—that leaves four performances. Dépêche-toi!
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is perhaps his least verbal tragedy. There are iconic speeches, but many come off as slightly frivolous (“Wherefore art thou Romeo?”) or even self-mocking (“Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!/O any thing, of nothing first create!/O heavy lightness! serious vanity!/Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!/Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!/Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!/This love feel I, that feel no love in this./Dost thou not laugh?”). Exclamatory ardor, wah wah wah. The story’s the thing: Pyramus and Thisbe, seeking forbidden love, find death has taken its place.
Without the fancy language—which you always sort of suspected was distracting you from the essentially embarrassing subject matter—you can really get into the story. This ballet is about nothing but teenage hormones. Brilliant!
I have to admit, though, the overriding conceit is a little distracting. Shakespeare’s Friar Laurence (Olivier Wevers) is now a sort of magician—it’s like Prospero skipped folios or something. He has little puppet-acolytes, and they occasionally freeze the action and attempt ineffectually to alter the fate of our star-crossed lovers. Wevers is a lithe, athletic dancer, but his constant hovering makes the story of Romeo and Juliet recede. It’s almost a ballet within a ballet, when what we crave is immediacy.
Luckily, we have lovers—Lucien Postlewaite as Roméo and Noelani Pantastico as Juliette—who care nothing for holy men. They drag us back into the action with great comic interludes: Roméo strutting around with Mercutio (Jonathan Porretta, goofy and awesome) and Juliette tussling with her Nurse (I saw Chalnessa Eames, very funny if conspicuously young; Jodie Thomas is also rotating in the role). Their own duets have to bear the weight of some seriously cheesy choreography (wiggly hands means “love,” apparently), but their acting is lovely and sincere—especially in the chilling final death scene.
Best of all, though, was the tarantula-limbed Ariana Lallone as Lady Capulet. Could any other dancer match her huge, frightening, tornado of grief? She’s amazing. I haven’t seen Louise Nadeau in the role, so perhaps I’m being unfair, but whatever. AVOID THOSE PERFORMANCES LIKE THE PLAGUE! (Luckily, one of Nadeau’s performances is during the caucus; the other is Sunday at one.) Lallone absolutely owned the performance I saw, and I wouldn’t want anyone else.