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 is a graduate of the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center (the 2010 Tony winner for regional theater) and a graduate of the University of Washington. Mickey has performed in eight productions with the Seattle Opera: Barber of Seville, Billy Budd, Tosca, Fallstaff, Turn of the Screw, Der Rosenkavalier, La Boheme, and I Puritani, four with the Seattle Children’s Theater, the second largest professional theater for young audiences in the country, The Cat in the Hat, The Wizard of Oz, Night of the Living Dead, and High School Musical, and has collaborated on and performed in world premiere productions at the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe and with the Washington Ensemble Theater. Mickey is a skilled stilt walker, unicyclest, juggler, tight rope walker, fire breather, and trained puppeteer with extensive stage combat experience. Mickey’s directing and acting work can also be seen at Arts on the Waterfront.
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