By Mary Therese Biebel - [email protected]

REV Theatre adds modern touches to ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Scranton

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Kelis Perkins and Tiara Jenkins, both 11, play two of the servants who fight in the streets of Verona because of the feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet.
Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Kayla Chofey, left, plays Juliet and Isabella Deflice portrays her nurse.
Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Assistant director Miranda Chemchick, center, reads the part of Mercutio during rehearsal, while Joseph Olsen portrays Romeo and Zakiyyah Muhammad portrays Benvolio.
Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Taahairah Muhammad, 16, right, portrays a very angry Tybalt, who is upset to learn that a Montague named Romeo has crashed a Capulet party. Juliet, portrayed by Kayla Chofey, left, dances with Paris, portrayed by Rahiym Muhammad. Paris is the nobleman Juliet’s parents want her to marry.
Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Kayla Chofey and Joseph Olsen, both 16 and from Scranton, have the title roles of Romeo and Juliet in the REV Theatre production of the celebrated Shakespeare play.
Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

SCRANTON — When the Capulets throw a party, their daughter, Juliet, and the guests dance to “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. As for Lady Capulet’s favored reading material, it’s Cosmopolitan magazine.

But don’t let those modern touches fool you.

The production of “Romeo and Juliet” that REV Theatre will present with a youthful cast on Thursday at the Oppenheim Center for the Arts on Jackson Street in Scranton is still William Shakespeare’s centuries-old story of star-crossed lovers whose bad luck stems from their families’ quarrel.

It’s also the play in which the parents of a 13-year-old girl pressure her to marry the man her father has chosen.

“I can’t even imagine marriage five years from now, never mind three years ago,” said 16-year-old Kayla Chofey, who plays Juliet.

But that was a different era and, Kayla speculates, Juliet probably would have gone along with the Capulets’ wishes and agreed to marry Paris — except that she met and fell in love with Romeo.

“He’s very emotional and he knows what he wants,” said Joseph Olsen, 16, of Scranton, who portrays the romantic hero. “He’ll do anything to get Juliet.”

“Juliet’s very young and naive,” Kayla said, “but she’ll do anything to get what she wants too.”

Romeo enlists the aid of his friend and spiritual adviser, Friar Laurence, played by 12-year-old Connor Briggs, who, as Connor explained, “does more for him than his own father.”

In similar fashion Juliet turns to her nurse, played by 14-year-old Isabella Deflice, who describes that character as more of a mother to Juliet than her biological mother is.

“Lady Capulet and Juliet have more of a ceremonial relationship,” Isabella said.

But no matter how much Friar Laurence and the nurse may try to help, they can’t undo the harm that results when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, portrayed with simmering anger by 18-year-old Taahairah Muhammad, of Scranton, insists on fighting.

“It’s one of my favorite things about REV Theatre,” assistant director Miranda Chemchick said, explaining she applauds artistic director Rudy Caporaso’s casting of young women in the major roles of Tybalt and Romeo’s friends Benvolio and Mercutio.

“It’s fun,” to play a male role and practice sword fights, Taahairah said, adding she had sore leg muscles for a while “but I’m better now.”

Her real-life sister and brothers are also in the play, with 16-year-old Zakiyyah playing Benvolio, 13-year-old Rahiym playing Juliet’s suitor, Paris, and 12-year-old Shahiyd playing Lord Montague.

Proving that he knew his lines, Shahiyd easily recited Lord Montague’s closing thought about raising a gold statue to Juliet.

“I guess, to remember her,” Shahiyd said, admitting a statue wouldn’t erase the bloodshed.

The play offers a lesson, Rahiym said. “Not to judge people because they’re from a different race or family from you.”

REV Theatre Co., which is based in Philadelphia and New York, works in partnership with the United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania to bring theater to casts and audiences that might not otherwise experience it.

Kelis Perkins and Tiara Jenkins, both 11, play two of the servants who fight in the streets of Verona because of the feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_Scranton-Theatre-1.jpgKelis Perkins and Tiara Jenkins, both 11, play two of the servants who fight in the streets of Verona because of the feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Kayla Chofey, left, plays Juliet and Isabella Deflice portrays her nurse.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_Scranton-Theatre-2.jpgKayla Chofey, left, plays Juliet and Isabella Deflice portrays her nurse. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Assistant director Miranda Chemchick, center, reads the part of Mercutio during rehearsal, while Joseph Olsen portrays Romeo and Zakiyyah Muhammad portrays Benvolio.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_Scranton-Theatre-3.jpgAssistant director Miranda Chemchick, center, reads the part of Mercutio during rehearsal, while Joseph Olsen portrays Romeo and Zakiyyah Muhammad portrays Benvolio. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Taahairah Muhammad, 16, right, portrays a very angry Tybalt, who is upset to learn that a Montague named Romeo has crashed a Capulet party. Juliet, portrayed by Kayla Chofey, left, dances with Paris, portrayed by Rahiym Muhammad. Paris is the nobleman Juliet’s parents want her to marry.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_Scranton-Theatre-4.jpgTaahairah Muhammad, 16, right, portrays a very angry Tybalt, who is upset to learn that a Montague named Romeo has crashed a Capulet party. Juliet, portrayed by Kayla Chofey, left, dances with Paris, portrayed by Rahiym Muhammad. Paris is the nobleman Juliet’s parents want her to marry. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader

Kayla Chofey and Joseph Olsen, both 16 and from Scranton, have the title roles of Romeo and Juliet in the REV Theatre production of the celebrated Shakespeare play.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_Scranton-Theatre-5.jpgKayla Chofey and Joseph Olsen, both 16 and from Scranton, have the title roles of Romeo and Juliet in the REV Theatre production of the celebrated Shakespeare play. Tony Callaio | For Times Leader
Young cast readies for production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

By Mary Therese Biebel

[email protected]

IF YOU GO

What: ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Who: REV Theatre

Where: Oppenheim Center, 1004 Jackson St., Scranton

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Admission: Free

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.

IF YOU GO

What: ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Who: REV Theatre

Where: Oppenheim Center, 1004 Jackson St., Scranton

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Admission: Free