Thursday, June 16, 2011

Private Romeo

Private Romeo, dir. Alan Brown, 2011 USA, 98 min. 
Mon. 6/20, 6:30p @ Castro, PRIV20C
screens with HERNDON, dir. Steve Clark Hall, 2010 USA, 3 min. (not reviewed)

The boys of McKinley Military Academy have been studying William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but on a weekend when all the adult faculty and staff are gone, leaving eight boys to fend for themselves, the story works its way off the dusty page and into their real lives. Most of the dialogue in the film — well over 90%, in fact — is the 400-year-old tale of Montagues and Capulets. If you’ve ever seen a high school try to perform Shakespeare, you might be filled with dread at the thought, but these boys clearly know that “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” is entirely different from “Where are you, Romeo?,” and they also know just where to hold an extra beat to underline a bawdy double-entendre.

The cast is uniformly excellent, carrying off the dual roles of Shakepearean tragedy and boys military prep school student with ease and fluidity. Indeed, my biggest knock against the film is that the credits identify the students by name, but not by the parts they played in Romeo and Juliet. With a bit of help from the press kit — plus the magical ability to rewind, pause, and read the original script — I discern that the parts flit about a bit, with Mercutio speaking a line of Romeo’s dialogue, for example. However, in the main, Sam Singleton (played by Seth Numrich) is Romeo, Glenn Mangan (Matt Doyle) is Juliet, Josh Neff (Hale Appleman) is Mercutio, Gus Sanchez (Sean Hudock) is Benvolio, Omar Madsen (Chris Bresky) is the Nurse, Carlos Moreno (Bobby Moreno) is Tybalt, Adam Hersh (Adam Barrie) is Friar Lawrence, and Ken Lee (Charlie Barnett) is Paris.

Come for the hunky military school boys, often shirtless, but stay for an excellent adaptation of a venerable classic and a beautiful gay love story. MUST SEE.

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