This exciting and sophisticated production of Romeo and Juliet was filled with interesting ideas and grounded in a thorough and intelligent understanding of the play’s text. Proximity Theatre Company’s cofounders, Kyra Lehman and Ken Urbina, have done a wonderful job training this teen ensemble in the finer points of contemporary physical theater, and the rewards were there for the audience, who got some of the sharpest, freshest Shakespeare they’re likely to see from these young actors. Subtle, flattering costumes by Camilla Bourbon worked to emphasize the production’s natural connection with dance, as did the bare feet of everyone on stage. Assistant director Karina Richardson, who edited the script, also played a fiery, spellbinding Mercutio, giving a physically charged-up reading to the famous Queen Mab speech that was easy to imagine impressing Percy Shelley—or even Shakespeare himself.
Combining the minimalism of a dance theater set with the useful addition of a single long raised platform, Proximity gave these Montagues and Capulets plenty of room to roam and to run. As Juliet’s father, Capulet, Jake Himovitz attracted plenty of attention through comedy, whether by preening in his boxers while waiting for a butler to dress him, or just sashaying on and off the stage. Chiara Perez del Campo played Lady Capulet with the right mixture of regal insensitivity and deep maternal protectiveness, while Gabriela London carried off some of the night’s most successful moments as Juliet’s nurse.
Isa Bourbon’s Tybalt rose to the challenge of squaring off with Richardson’s feisty Mercutio, and what could have seemed a casting gimmick—changing out the genders of these two key characters by having them played by, and as, women—instead became one of the core strengths of the production. Tybalt and Mercutio’s duel, which was enacted in a style that recalled Twyla Tharp and Baz Luhrmann, was a thrill to watch.
Finally, the actors playing the title couple managed to pull off the difficult trick of making age-appropriate Romeo and Juliet casting work. Zac Frank was terrific as Romeo, striding, stomping, sliding, and sprawling around the big stage in an energetically convincing performance as a young man in the grip of forces bigger than himself. And Margaret Easter, the Juliet of his dreams, brought off all the challenging speeches, emotional changes, and physical drama necessary for making her complex and sensitive character come alive. It will be interesting to see what’s next for this outstanding group.