Originally published on August 15, 2022 by Ken Marks in The New Yorker (“The Theatre, Now Playing”).
With color-and gender-blind casting becoming more common in today’s theatre, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is making a strong case for age-blind role-playing as well. Nance Williamson, playing Juliet, and Kurt Rhoads, playing Romeo, a married couple in real life, have been gracing the company for more than twenty years, longer than this play’s titular pair have been alive. Friar Laurence, the lovers’ parents, and the Prince of Verona are all played by younger actors. It doesn’t matter. Rhoads and Williamson bring their customary intelligence, humor, passion, and clarity to the roles. The director, Gaye Taylor Upchurch, hasn’t fashioned a high-concept take; there’s no winking at the lines that reference the characters’ youth. It’s just actors playing parts, with a fine-tuned ear to Shakespeare’s ever-clever language and construction. Lauren Karaman and Luis Quintero shine, as the Nurse and Mercutio, respectively. Some skillful textual concision and a bit of novel stage business during the final embrace, in the Capulet burial vault, produce a creepier-than-usual climax.