Romeo n Juliet: In brief
Classical Theatre of Harlem presents a free outdoor version of the Bard's family-feud tragedy about oversexed kids who come to grief after scoring drugs from a local priest. Director Justin Emeka adapts the text with an eye on Harlem culture.
Romeo n Juliet: Theater review by Helen Shaw
They’re star-crossed, noise-crossed, microphone-crossed, director’s-concept-crossed.… Those poor Shakespearean lovers—everything’s against them. And yet there’s so much talent and charm in Classical Theatre of Harlem’s free Romeo n Juliet in Marcus Garvey Park that even these doomed Veronese should laugh aloud. Director Justin Emeka keeps things teetering between celebratory community theater (with entr’actes by pop-and-lock crews) and high-caliber Barding (including the best Capulet parents I’ve seen lately), though his avalanche of ideas does shade, occasionally, into deep silliness.
Where it excels is in its marriage of humor and violence: CTH director Ty Jones plays a dazzling Mercutio, barreling into the party wearing a Jamaican flag as a cape; once Tybalt pitches his fit, the explosion roils all the way off the stage. The titular pair (Sheldon Best and a graceful Natalie Paul) can’t quite navigate the play’s turn toward tragedy, despite assistance from an able Sister Laurence (Zainab Jah). But then they’re young, and the fireflies are out. There’s time enough for weeping later.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
THE BOTTOM LINE Lovers leap into this classic in Harlem.