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Theater review: 'Romeo and Juliet' -- 2 stars

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet Credit: handout

Romeo and Juliet

2 stars

What images do you associate with Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"? Probably not massive fires that erupt at random, Romeo wearing headphones and riding a bicycle, and Juliet twirling a lariat out of boredom.

But those are just a few of the gimmicks surrounding Rupert Goold's intriguing but puzzling and overblown version, which marks the second production by the Royal Shakespeare Company to open at the Park Avenue Armory as part of this year's Lincoln Center Festival.

Goold's staging tries to take place in both the past and the present at once. It begins with a modern-day youth embarking upon an audio-guided tour of what appears to be a medieval Italian church. He's soon revealed to be Romeo.

Unlike the other Capulets and Montagues, all of whom wear traditional Elizabethan clothing, Romeo wears a hoodie, jeans and Doc Martens. He even shows off pics of his former love Rosalind with a digital camera.

Juliet is also dressed in contemporary garb, thus separating the star-crossed lovers from everyone else. And after their deaths, the concept gets inexplicably reversed when their parents appear in modern dress instead.

Goold appears to have little interest in the story itself, stuffing the play with overdone displays of violence, fire, religious imagery and those weird costume juxtapositions instead. An early street fight is taken to such an extreme that it nearly ends in a stake burning.

Most of the lead performances are wildly inappropriate. Mariah Gale portrays Juliet as alternately quirky and petulant. As Mercutio, Jonjo O'Neill overplays the sexual overtones of his lines beyond the limits of good taste.

On the other hand, Sam Troughton makes for a passionate Romeo, credibly capturing his wildly ecstatic and blazing emotional high upon finding Juliet.

If you go "Romeo and Juliet" plays at the Park Avenue Armory through Aug. 13. 643 Park Ave., 212-721-6500,

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