Seattle Times Review of Mickey Rowe’s Romeo and Juliet

A bare-bones, energetic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on Seattle’s waterfront

A review from the first weekend of Arts on the Waterfront’s free performances of “Romeo and Juliet.” The performances continue June 22-24, 30, and July 1, 2012, and include dancing to live bands after the show is over.    www.artsonthewaterfront.com/press

By Misha Berson

Seattle Times theater critic

7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; also June 30 and July 1, Waterfront Park, 1300 Alaskan Way, Seattle; free

You could say “Romeo and Juliet” is about a pair of crazy, fired-up kids in love. And you could say the new, free mini-production of the play at Seattle’s Waterfront Park is the work of a pair of crazy, mixed-up kids in love with theater.

This feisty first effort by the Arts on the Waterfront group is bare-bones. Actor-producers Mickey Rowe and Laurie Roberts perform Shakespeare’s tragedy in a corner of the boardwalk with an expansive Elliott Bay view. At each performance they set up a couple dozen chairs and an ad hoc art exhibit, and after the show they invite you to stay and dance to a live rock band.

With a little budget and a lot of moxie, they brave traffic noise, the whoosh of a nearby fountain and a constant flow of passers-by to put across their version of the classic.

And, yes, you can transmit the essence of a romantic tragedy with modest means but a lot of creative exuberance and some humble props. A pair of tall ladders serve as a balcony and more. Sword duels are fought with water balloons. A frowzy wig defines Juliet’s nurse. And the music of cellist Brandon Smith sets the scene nicely.

The two-member cast, quick-change style, plays all the major characters, switching genders and roles as they tear around the staging area and barely pause for breath.

Forget subtlety: The actors shout to be heard (Rowe more effectively than Roberts) and resort to elemental pantomime to get across a condensed, hourlong version of the Bard’s text.

But there’s a punky esprit here that carries the day, recalling the great Shakespeare director Peter Brook’s notion of a “rough” theater that may be rugged and no-frills but is unmistakably alive.

About Mickey Rowe

Mickey Rowe was the first autistic actor to play Christopher Boone in the Tony Award winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and one of the first autistic actors to get to play any autistic character. He has been featured in the New York Times (three times), PBS, Teen Vogue, Playbill, NPR, CNN'S Great Big Story, Huffington Post, and been the keynote at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center's LEAD Conference, and more. He is completing his MFA in Artistic Leadership. He has appeared in productions at Syracuse Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Seattle Opera, SCT, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Book-It Repertory Theatre, The Ashland New Plays Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Midnight Projects, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Mickey was Artistic Director of Arts on the Waterfront, a theater/philanthropy company working with Homeless Teen Artists, The Trevor Project, The City of Seattle, and Teen Feed. He is a juggler, stilt walker, unicyclest, hat manipulator, acrobat, and more. Mickey Rowe is represented by Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates.
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