So naturally you still want to know: Does a muskier version of "Romeo and Juliet" smell as sweet? Er, sorta kinda. Muse plays confidently with tradition: While dressing characters in gender-appropriate Renaissance finery, he inventively also sets melancholy choral numbers -- courtesy of a group called the Broken Chord Collective -- to some of Romeo's lines. He elicits becoming portrayals, too, from the epicene Mercutio of Aubrey Deeker to the vigilant Nurse of Drew Eshelman to the machismo of Cody Nickell's Tybalt.
Yes, yes, but what about the boys? All right, here's the rub: The fresh-faced actors playing Romeo (Finn Wittrock) and Juliet (James Davis) convincingly convey the caution-to-the-wind impetuosity of young love. But not the raging fires. Romeo and Juliet meet sporadically in this violent tragedy; for the awful consequences to make sense, the adolescent passion in their fleeting encounters must be downright flammable.
The romance with which Wittrock and Davis imbue the story is of a demure variety -- their kisses are little more than pecks -- that never allows you to go along fully with the idea they'd jump into the grave for each other. Davis's Juliet, all billowing locks and gowns, pliably radiates femininity, and still there's the sense that the production is dancing around the subject of sex. (Let's be real: No post-Zeffirelli version feels complete without it.)
This is not a big problem in the early part of the play, when the fast-forwarding courtship sparks our amusement. As the skies over fair Verona darken, however, the intensity of their rapture becomes that much more vital for us to feel. Yet in this outing, that ardor carries little emotional force.
The crucial fate-sealing plot twist, in which the exiled Romeo is told that the dead Juliet "sleeps in Capel's monument," seems weightless. Although the text tells us that Romeo's looks at this moment are "pale and wild," Wittrock's affect is neutral and collected. The mistiming of Juliet's reawakening in the tomb as a result strikes one as a minor cause for regret, not a major source of heartbreak.