Festival Ballet Providence
Lady Capulet (Karla Kovatch) with Romeo (Gleb Lyamenkoff) after Tybalt has been killed
Photo by Jake Hegnauer, courtesy Festival Ballet Providence
Festival Ballet Providence
VMA Arts & Cultural Center, Providence, RI
October 21–23, 2005
Reviewed by Bill Gale
No doubt about it—one thing Romeo and Juliet must have is a sense of impetuous youth. Without that, the confounding sense of later tragedy is much ado about little. Yves de Bouteiller’s new production found the cascading joy that makes Shakespeare’s denouement so powerful, moving from youth and joy to familial anger to final tragedy with unforced inevitability.
Best known for his work with Milwaukee Ballet and Ballet Wisconsin, de Bouteiller knew that his first emphasis had to be on bright-eyed youth, and opening night’s principals provided that. Heather O’Halloran’s Juliet, a teenager of bright alertness with a sense of self, was skittish and fresh, her footwork quick and detailed. Gleb Lyamenkoff’s Romeo was all headlong drive. His wide-eyed impersonation was cut just short of caricature, and in his scenes of anger and action he turned the corner toward tragedy. A lithe dancer, his leaps were unforced and his landings soft. The two made the balcony scene one of restless energy and delight in the newness of love. (Unfortunately, the second team of Leticia Guerrero and Ty Parmenter, seen at a morning school performance, lacked that youthful exuberance.) Strong support came from Eivar Martinez, whose Tybalt was an arrogant and powerful foe, while Marissa Gomer turned the Nurse into a figure of fun and loving aid for Juliet.
De Bouteiller was equally good at making the choreographic transition from zest to anger. At one point three courtiers moved with light footwork and easy joy to a sudden confrontation; then anger-driven energy propelled six men. It was truly a Shakespearean turnabout, a metaphor for how all can change in a second.
This Romeo and Juliet has it all. Alan Pickart’s set, made of two movable metal-and-wood stands and flown chain-link fences (West Side Story, anyone?), enhanced the tragedy through its spareness. Overriding anger between the Montagues and the Capulets finally curbs youthful exuberance; the final tragedy is inevitable. The last image is of Friar Lawrence moving slowly down the stairs into the crypt where so much death is present. Is he bringing the succor of religious faith, or mocking the folly of believing in a world so beset with anger and grief? Your interpretation allows a personal relationship with a vibrant, intriguing production. See www.festivalballet.com.