★★★★★ | Private Romeo

Over a weekend eight male high school cadets are left behind when the rest of the McKinley Military Academy go away on an exercise and they are ordered to carry on with their studies regardless.

In the English Literature Class, they are studying ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the two young men reading the leads begin to take it all very seriously and live their roles as the star-crossed lovers for real.

Rather than the city of Verona, the setting is the hallway, gym and dorms of the School, and whilst the script is punctuated with occasional references to their daily routine, it sticks faithfully to Shakespeare’s glorious text. It transforms the piece into a modern-day gay tragedy.

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This totally enchanting production by writer/director Alan Brown of shirtless teenagers falling in love with each other and spouting this magical prose is a real breath of fresh air. The energy and exuberance of the talented young cast oozes through, and what they may occasionally lack in technique certain more than compensates with such enthusiasm which makes all of their performances so very watchable, especially Hale Appleman as Mercutio.

This is not one for Shakespearian purists but if you ever had the same good fortune of ever catching Joe Calcaro’s play ‘Shakespeare’s R & J’ (which I was lucky enough to see Off Broadway in the late 1990s) which served as the inspiration, then you will love this one.

A refreshing wee gem of a movie.