Among all the major Shakespeare characters, the one least susceptible to a one-actor treatment may be Romeo Montague, the doomed lover in Romeo and Juliet. Hamlet, Lear, Shylock, Othello all have great monologues, but actors illuminate Romeo mostly in relation to other characters — principally Juliet, but the Friar, the Nurse, Mercutio, Benvolio and Tybalt as well. Putting Romeo on stage without his scene partners is a perilous bit of business.
Darius McCall takes it on anyway, and largely succeeds in what he appears to have set out to do, which is to give his character a personality. McCall’s Romeo is no Don Juan; he is a man so modest that he is astonished when a woman returns his love, and he reacts as if he just won the lottery. When he says “if I profane with my unworthiest hand/
This holy shrine,” he’s not handing out the same romantic ca-ca that guys say when they want to score; he really believes it: he wants Juliet’s forgiveness for loving her.
To achieve this end, McCall runs Romeo’s lines through the entire play, beginning at the final scene, in which Juliet lies motionless in her tomb. She is in a medically-induced coma, but Romeo thinks her dead, as we would in his place. (The role of Juliet is played by a well-made cloth dummy). He repeats all the sweet things he says about her in the play (and some of the sweet things he said about Rosalind, her predecessor in his heart) as she lies behind him. The lights go down, and we are in Act I, scene 1.
McCall runs through the whole play, pausing briefly where others have lines. Where Romeo is absent from the stage for an extended period, the stage darkens, and we hear some cool music which occasionally bleeds too long into the next scene. McCall moves as appropriate; during the swordfight with Mercutio and Tybalt (and the later one with County Paris) he thrusts and parries as if he had an opponent in front of him.
One Man Romeo
Performed by Darius McCall
Details and tickets
If you’ve seen the play several times, as I have, you know what the other characters are saying and it’s interesting to watch McCall’s response, but if you’re not familiar with the play you’re in for a mystifying time, I’m afraid. In the production I attended, one couple brought a young boy (I would guess 10) with them, and he was mightily — and visibly and audibly — bored. Don’t do that.
One Man Romeo is a sort of audition, in which the actor Darius McCall shows the audience how well he can perform the character. Sitting in judgment, I’d say that he is effectively expressive, graceful of movement, convincing in his characterization, and that he acts well with his face and body. His voice is similarly expressive, and he projects well. If he wants to take classical acting jobs away from the likes of Ed Gero and his ilk, however, he still has to do some work on his articulation, as it is a little fuzzy and imprecise in spots.
One Man Romeo . Selected from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare . Directed by Estelle Miller . Featuring Darius McCall as Romeo . Reviewed by Tim Treanor
(Reviewer’s note: I realize that Mr. McCall is deaf. His stated ambition is “to show the world that no one can hold him down regardless of what they say about his disability or path in life,” and in my respect for that mission I have reviewed him as I would review any hearing actor attempting a classical role. From the evidence of this show, I believe that Mr. McCall could take on most contemporary young-male roles available in professional theater. Because the language of classical theater is unfamiliar to contemporary audiences, the demands for articulation are unusually high. In my view, Mr. McCall is almost there, but not quite.)