ROMEO N JULIET by William Shakespeare, adapted by Justin Emeka. Pittsburgh Public Theater, streams Feb.18 – 21.
Romeo and Juliet, a hit in Shakespeare’s own time, has become a play that lends itself to modern adaptations. The story’s main elements—street battles between urban clans, lovers from the two rival factions, macho comedy that turns into tragedy—were the basis for West Side Story. Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet kept most of Shakespeare’s original but reset it in a mythical city of our time, with TV newscasters as the chorus and gunfights instead of swordplay. And now, streaming online in Black History Month, Pittsburgh Public Theater presents Romeo N Juliet. This adaptation is by Justin Emeka, the company’s resident director. He has transposed the story to Harlem, blended Shakespeare’s language with contemporary ways of speaking, and infused the entire play with the spirit and energy of African-American and Black immigrant cultures. Emeka’s Romeo N Juliet was premiered live by The Classical Theatre of Harlem in 2014. The Public will send it onto your screen for donations of $10 or more. (M.V.)