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At RSC's 'Romeo & Juliet,' alarm bells, not wedding bells

August 14, 2011 |  9:33 am

This post has been corrected. Please see below for details.  

It's Romeo and Juliet who normally make sparks fly in Shakespeare's classic tragedy. But it was Romeo and the Friar setting off the fire alarm when the Royal Shakespeare Company staged the Bard's play on Saturday in New York.

About midway through the first of two acts during a matinee performance at the Park Avenue Armory, as Friar Laurence (Forbes Masson) and Romeo (Dyfan Dwyfor) sat on the steps discussing the young lover's conundrum, a three-tone alarm started ringing metronomically. The actors plowed on for five minutes over the sounds before a theater manager stepped out to halt the performance.

The noise was finally silenced and the actors came out and took the scene from the top. But parting proved to be such sweet sorrow for the alarm:  About 20 minutes later, with the friar extending the Bible to Romeo in an effort to to give him counsel, the tones started again. The two actors looked at each other, and though a chunk of dialogue awaited them, decided to take things in a different direction: "Shall we go?" Romeo said wryly, mid-speech and the friar, grinning, nodded. Romeo put his arm around the friar's shoulders, and the two walked off the stage mid-scene.

All seemed resolved by the second act. But the fire alarm may have proved to be a bit of foreshadowing. As Romeo stood above Juliet's seemingly dead body in the play's climactic moments, he attempted to put out a torch that he had been carrying. But the effort to extinguish the fire by sliding its handle shut proved futile; he slid it repeatedly, but the fire kept roaring back. After some laughs from the audience, and a little ad libbing, Romeo finally succeeded in putting it out, the audience at once applauding and breathing a sigh of relief on behalf of the young actor.

When Romeo and Juliet (Mariah Gale) got up from their death scene at the play's conclusion to take their bows, they could be seen laughing and shaking their heads. In an otherwise stellar production, the theater gods had made them fortune's fool. As Dwyfor walked off after the final bows, he could be seen shaking his head again. Richard Katz, the actor playing Lord Capulet, came up to him and put his arm around the young performer.  Such, we suppose, is the power of a theater mishap -- it's capable of even bringing the Montagues and the Capulets together. [Corrected, Sunday, 10:00 am. The actor playing Romeo was initially identified as Sam Troughton.]


Theater review: Romeo & Juliet at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale  in the RSC's "Romeo & Juliet." Credit: Stephanie Berger / Lincoln Center Festival