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Steven Rea’s “Awful New ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Is a Pain in the Back” Bites

In response to Steven Rea’s 493‑word review of Romeo and Juliet on Philadelphia Inquirer

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Steven Rea’s “Awful new ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a pain in the back” yells very loud from word one, and doesn’t let up until the final exclamation point. The effect is angry writing of the most singular sort: atonal.

Rea’s review suffers, as many due, from having a trailer embedded before we can get to their words. Sadly, the trailer is the best part. Because when the trailer is done, and the voice over dies, Rea rolls up his sleeves and vents his spleen for almost five hundred words. But the targets are on costumes, actor appearances, and precious little on, well, the film.

Until, that is, the belly of the piece, where the film’s inability to be the actual play Romeo and Juliet ignites ire, disgust, and vitriol. The director, from Rea’s angry pulpet, made no good choices.  Rea posits an interesting thesis over the director’s intention, giving them the benefit of the doubt in trying to update a play that gets updated more than most works.  But updates are an abomination in Rea’s worldview. So the film was defeated before the trailer even started.

There is a growing trend in reviews of updated work to defend the original source material, as if senior English teacher was reading over the reviewer’s shoulders. For Rea, at least, I hope that teacher gave him an A for effort. As a review, it “needs improvement.” Perhaps it, too, could be updated?   

Quality of Writing Quality of Argument Spoiler Avoidance Presentation