Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Romeo and Juliet
A Noise Within
Review by Sharon Perlmutter

Also see Sharon's review of Colony Collapse

Donnla Hughes
Photo by Craig Schwartz
When I heard that A Noise Within was setting its new production of Romeo and Juliet on a graffiti-covered street, I was intrigued. Would this involve a "one-percent" Juliet who falls for a homeless Romeo? (I mean, sure, you'd have to change the reading on "both alike in dignity," but it's doable.) Would we get a genuinely timely production, trying to bridge the divide caused by income inequality?

Well ... no, not really. There's a nod or two in that direction, particularly when Capulet offensively talks down to an impoverished servant. But, mostly, the setting is just a setting, with a bunch of people of no particular economic standing gathering there to put on the play. (This is one of those productions in which the actors not in a scene sit or stand nearby watching the action; it emphasizes their actor-ness.)

The production is, however, undeniably modern. Clothing is of the moment; the spirit at the Capulets' party is suitably raucous (even if the dance moves are traditional); and the cast emphasizes the action with loud pounding on metal dumpsters in a way that keeps the energy high. And if, at first, the use of sword fighting seems a little anachronistic, you're willing to let that slide because Ken Merckx's full-on fight choreography is spectacular.

The cast is solid. Donnla Hughes turns in a Juliet who is much more mature than Will Bradley's Romeo. Though I enjoyed watching a Juliet who is clearly the only one in her family capable of rational thought, I found Bradley's Romeo the more interesting of the two. Watch him when Mercutio gets killed; without a word, you see Romeo grow up in a moment.

Then again, watching anyone else when Rafael Goldstein's Mercutio is around is a real challenge. He dominates the production—slouching on every set piece like he owns it, comfortable everywhere, aware of his social status (but not holding it over anyone). He's the life of the party and the play ... and now that I've seen the "Queen Mab" speech come from a Mercutio doing drugs at the very moment he says it, I can't imagine it any other way. After Mercutio died, I occasionally found myself watching Goldstein watching the action, somehow hoping he'd come back to liven up the proceedings. (And he did! Goldstein doubles Mercutio with a stint as the Apothecary—earning what is likely the biggest laugh of the show.)

Director Dámaso Rodriguez generally keeps things moving pretty well, although the scenes with Friar Laurence tend to drag, and, unfortunately, I spent more of the final scene wondering whether that mattress was going to stay balanced on top of the slanted dumpster lid (creating the Capulets' tomb) than actually being engaged in the tragedy playing out on it.

Ultimately, despite all the trappings of modernity, this is basically a straightforward production of Shakespeare's classic, with mostly decent performances, and one outstanding one.

Romeo and Juliet runs at A Noise Within, 3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, through May 8, 2016. For tickets and information, see

A Noise Within presents Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, directed by Dámaso Rodriguez. Scenic Design Angela Balogh Calin; Costume Design Angela Balogh Calin; Lighting Design Jared A. Sayeg; Original Music Composition/Sound Design Martín Carrillo; Stage Manager Malia Arguello; Wig and Makeup Design Saundra Montijo; Props Master Dillon Nelson; Props Intern Ellen Cambruzzi; Assistant Director/Dramaturg Matthew Leavitt; Assistant Stage Manager Emily Burst. Fight Choreography Ken Merckx; Movement Coach Sophie Olson; Scenic Construction Sets to Go; Scenic Painter Amanda Lawson & Sets to Go.

Romeo: Will Bradley
Juliet: Donnla Hughes
Friar Laurence: Robertson Dean
Mercutio/Apothecary: Rafael Goldstein
The Nurse/Prince Escalus: June Carryl
Capulet: Alan Blumenfeld
Lady Capulet: Jill Hill
Tybalt/Friar John: Christian Barillas
Paris: Amir Abdullah
Montague/Ensemble: Lawrence Sonderling
Benvolio: Charlotte Gulezian
Lady Montague/Ensemble: Kathryn Ventress
Balthasar/Ensemble: Marcos J. Ruiz
Abram/Ensemble: Seven Pierce-English
Gregory/Ensemble: Chase Green
Sampson/Ensemble: Troy Whiteley
Page/Ensemble: Carina Haller

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