For some, summer means Yankee Games and over-airconditioned subway cars. For others, it means loads of free theater - the best being The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park.
This year's season includes Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Micheal Greif directs Lauren Ambrose and Oscar Isaac as the star-crossed lovers in this earnest, well-crafted production.
Lauren Ambrose strikes us as the most innocent, pure Juliet one can imagine. With her awkward blushing around Romeo and her (often comedic) impatience, she reminds the audience of being fourteen and having that rush of emotion we call our first crush. Oscar Isaac is an arresting Romeo - his manly confidence and charm breaks just often enough that we see a boy who desperately wants to be a man.
The rest of the cast is equally believable as the friends and families that mar this otherwise-perfect love. But it's Christopher Evan Welch (Mercutio) who steals the stage, taking a character often portrayed as hot-blooded youth and creating a complex life behind his ramblings and rages. His death marks the turn to tragedy in the plot of the play, but also a sad moment for the audience, as his command of both the stage and the text brings a freshness to every scene he is in. One of the best moments in the show is the exchange between Mercutio and the Nurse (the delightful Camryn Manheim).
Moments like this, the taunting of authority by a youth, remind us how very young the boys (and Juliet) are. Romeo and Juliet's passion for one another is not the comfortable, trusting love that leads to marriage in our society today, but you leave wishing that they had the chance to grow up and try it.
Romeo and Juliet run through July 8th at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.
Tickets are free, see publictheater.org for details.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.