By William Shakespeare; Directed by Lukas Raphael
Produced by The Drilling Company
Off Off Broadway, Classic
Runs through 7.27.19
Clemente Parking Lot, 114 Norfolk Street
by Asya Gorovits on 7.16.19
Adam Huff and Serena Ebony Miller in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
BOTTOM LINE: Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’s Romeo and Juliet takes advantage of an urban environment and features great performers.
It can be difficult to get tickets to the Public's Shakespeare in the Park—tickets are free, but they can go fast and require long waits. But luckily the great city of New York has a few alternatives to enjoy the Bard’s classics under the stars. One of the most established and beloved, the Drilling Company's Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, celebrates its 25th season with a production of Romeo and Juliet set on the Lower East Side in the early 1990s. Don’t let the “scrappy” aesthetic veer you away from this gem. Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, with its unpredictable weather, plastic chairs, and honking of passing cars, is an essential New York experience, featuring an array of great talent.
This tragedy of star-crossed lovers is often staged in the present day, or not-so-distant past, something that works perfectly here, given the urban surroundings and the sounds of a buzzing city (half the time I couldn’t tell if a piece of music or a dog’s bark was a deliberate effect or a coincidence). The Capulets are imagined as an established family on the verge of decline, and the Montagues are mobsters hungry for control of the streets. Costumes by Sofia Piccolo evoke nostalgia for the recent past and help create believable characters. Swords are replaced with knives, making for some heart-pounding combat scenes (choreographed by Frank Alfano) that unfold inches from the first row.
The cast, under the direction of Lukas Raphael, gives a high-energy, vibrant performance. There is a lot of humor and physicality, which help them deliver every witty, elaborately constructed line of Shakespeare's text. In the Drilling Company’s hands, Romeo and Juliet is widely accessible to people of various ages and walks of life without being ingratiating or condescending. This equilibrium—staying faithful to Shakespearean language while making sure that a modern, diverse audience understands his words—is not easily achieved. But while the occasional modern-day allusion finds its way in, perhaps catching some off-guard, the Drilling Company is largely successful in striking that balance.
I initially had trouble adjusting to different actors projecting at different volumes (especially when the music from the boombox overpowers them). But once the music is out of the way, it becomes easier to appreciate the range of tones, from boisterous Mercutio (Alessandro Colla), a loud young man who gets himself into trouble, to Capulet (Jack Sochet), mumbling in the beginning and spinning into violent rage once he hears that his daughter loves an enemy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Juliet’s parents (Kendra Lee Oberhauser is Lady Capulet) portrayed as three-dimensionally as they are in this production.
Anwen Darcy's Juliet is undoubtedly the star of the show; for her alone, this production is worth the trip (and the battling of heat or rain). Excitable and moody (as befits a teenager), Darcy radiates such exuberance of youth that you can almost see the electrical charge coming out of her black-nailed fingertips. As Romeo, Adam Huff matches her energy. If the awkward staging of their final scene is a bit cramped, this doesn’t spoil the overall impression.
(Romeo and Juliet plays at the La Plaza at the Clemente Parking Lot, 114 Norfolk Street, through July 27, 2019. The running time is 100 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7. Admission is free, donations are welcome. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Or bring your own chairs and/or blankets. No one is ever turned away. For more information visit shakespeareintheparkinglot.com.)
Romeo and Juliet is by William Shakespeare. Produced by Shakespeare in the Parking Lot and The Drilling Company. Directed by Lukas Raphael. Fight Choreography by Frank Alfano. Set Design by Lukas Raphael. Costume Design by Sofia Piccolo.
The Cast is Adam Huff, Anwen Darcy, Alessandro Colla, Una Clancy, Jake Lesh, Kendra Lee Oberhauser, Jack Sochet, Serena Miller, John Caliendo, and Samantha Sutliffe.