What Light In Lincoln Park Breaks

June 22, 2014

A classic tale of teenage delinquency performed outdoors, a visit to Art On Lark and more Shakespeare In The Park to come starting July 18

The first Saturday in June was sunny and warm, a day for the kind of light, genteel outdoor activities that urban communities like the City of Albany do best. At ten in the morning the sky still looked threatening when The Wife and I walked over to check out Art On Lark, the art-themed festival on Lark Street that has become an annual June event. But by afternoon the sun was blazing in a blue sky with puffy clouds when we caught an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in Lincoln Park.

We couldn’t miss seeing a Shakespeare play put on practically across the street from our house in our beautiful park. I can’t recall ever hearing about a play being performed in Lincoln Park, so at the very least we had to dig our portable chairs out of the closet and walk over to show our support for the production. To our surprise and delight the whole performance was done quite well by a well-prepared cast of young thespians, who handled the acting with confidence for an audience of only about 50 people.

And what could be more entertaining than this timeless story of delinquent teenagers, underage sex, drug use and of course, the ever popular pointless violence and multiple murders. It’s full of great pointers for kids, such as how much fun it is to run around with swords and stab each other. And of course the great message of the tale (Spoiler Alert!) is that the most noble and important thing one can do in life is to die stupidly over a case of teenage lust and to leave a trail of bodies in your wake.

Pointless Violence In Lincoln Park: The First Swordfight Of Romeo And Juliet Pointless Violence In Lincoln Park: The First Swordfight Of
Romeo And Juliet

This performance, the second of five over two weekends, was produced by Steamer No. 10 Theater, the well-established theater company operating out of a converted firehouse at The Point, the triangle shaped bit of land located a ways uptown where Madison and Western Avenues meet. The chosen spot for the performance, the hillside between the still-vacant Sunshine School building and Martin Luther King Boulevard, worked very well with the stage located downhill from the audience. The executive director of Steamer No. 10, Rick Chesser, was very much in charge of the production and acted as emcee.

Rick Chesser Of Steamer No. 10 Makes The Introduction Rick Chesser Of Steamer No. 10 Makes The Introduction

I have to admit that when we saw the excessive youth of the cast we became alarmed, thinking we might be about to see a glorified elementary school play rather than a serious acting performance. Indeed the opening chorus was recited by some really little kids, but they handled it well. The main parts were performed by much older kids, or perhaps some of the cast was older than high school age. Perhaps. In any case, it’s a play about out-of-control teenagers, so a young cast made perfect sense.

he Opening Recitation The Opening Recitation

Romeo was played by Miles Keefe, and Juliet by Annie Crisafuli. As the story goes, Romeo, a 17 year old street thug who is quite handy with a sword, crashes a party with his bros where he meets 13 year old Juliet, and they hit it off immediately. As we have all heard, teenage pregnancy is a multi-generational problem. By my calculation, Juliet’s mom, Lady Capulet was all of 26 years old herself.

"You Kiss By The Book." "You Kiss By The Book."

Romeo’s two main bros are a relatively reasonable fellow named Benvolio (played by Sean Baldwin) who likes to party but tries his best to be a helpful friend to Romeo. The other bro is Mercutio, who in this production was played by a female, Anna Dempf, a most extraordinary bit of casting. And yes, they dared to alter The Bard’s sacred poetry to refer to the character as “she.”

Benvolio And Mercutio Complain That Romeo Seems Distracted and Doesn't Want To Party Benvolio And Mercutio Complain That Romeo Seems Distracted and Doesn’t Want To Party

I found this interesting description of the character Mercutio in a high school English class crib sheet called Spark Notes:

Mercutio overflows with imagination, wit, and, at times, a strange, biting satire and brooding fervor. Mercutio loves wordplay, especially sexual double entendres. He can be quite hotheaded, and hates people who are affected, pretentious, or obsessed with the latest fashions. He finds Romeo’s romanticized ideas about love tiresome, and tries to convince Romeo to view love as a simple matter of sexual appetite.