Romeo & Jules

If this Juliet looks not quite right to you, it's because it's actor James Davis in the Shakespeare Theater's all-male cast of Romeo & Juliet.
In the program notes, director David Muse denies he's interested in staging a gender-bender, being interested instead in exploring what effect the male-only cast of Shakespeare's time would have on the meaning of the play.

Although the costuming and staging are exquisite, the production breaks the fourth wall in several respects, never attempting to fully "fool" us into thinking the men are women. In the opening monologue, all the female characters are present sans wigs so we clearly see time as men; Davis as Juliet makes no effort to raise his voice to the register of a 13-yr-old girl; after Mercutio dies, he reappears as part of the chorus with no costume change; and mere seconds after the last words are uttered, the "dead" Romeo & Juliet arise to join in reciting the chorus of denouement.

I don't think this experiment is finally successful, in the sense that the reason for banning women from the stage -- to protect their modesty-- is no longer accessible to our time, and there is therefore no escaping the gender-bender element. The production is unintentionally misogynistic: not because it casts no women, but because it portrays them all as hysterical --that's apparently how a man plays "feminine." (I wished more than anything else to take Juliet across my knee and spank her.)

It has this merit, however: by taking the chemistry between Romeo & Juliet off the table, the production has the effect of de-emphasizing their romance and bringing the other elements of the story into heightened relief. That was a revelation to me. In our eros-obsessed culture, our attention and sympathies naturally go to the lovers. In this production, we're not on the lovers' side --and it becomes far more obvious that the play really isn't about love at all, but about unrestrained passions of all kinds --most especially the misplaced love of honor that fuels almost every element of the action.

Just for example, how many times have I read, acted in or seen Romeo & Juliet and yet forgotten that in the opening scenes he is mooning about one Rosaline in precisely the same terms he later uses for Juliet? He sneaks into the Capulet household to catch a glimpse of Rosaline --and then drops her flat because he's suddenly taken by Juliet. This is no epic romance at all --but it takes an all-male cast, perhaps, to make us skeptical enough to see that --and to make the frequent speeches about getting ahold of one's emotions and acting like a man take on their full meaning.

So: maybe not a production to love with all your heart, but very interesting.