Most New Yorkers have heard of Shakespeare in the Park, meaning the big festival in Central Park. I have had the fortune of attending performances the past two years and they were both spectacular. But a far fewer number have heard of or attended the free uptown iteration in Marcus Garvey Park. Not only does this company’s productions rival the renowned Public Theater’s shows, but it is also free, and does not require tickets for seats.
Over the past few years, The Classical Theatre of Harlem‘s Shakespeare productions in Harlem have been a summer staple of mine. Their production of the Tempest last year was for me, appropriately set on the island of Hispaniola, as I had just returned from the Dominican Republic. In past seasons they have performed a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. While setting their plays within relevant eras for the audience, the company remains true to the text and never fails to captivate and delight.
They’ve done it again with their production of Macbeth, by incorporating Afro-Caribbean music, dance, and speech into the Scottish play. They play is known for being cursed, and apparently the company skirted disaster before opening night, avoiding flooding in the park and amphitheater.
Yet the play went on as scheduled, and Friday nights’ performance was both engaging, heartbreaking and sad. Set in Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, the production was a fresh twist on the classic tragedy.
After hearing a prophecy of grandeur from a trio of witches, Macbeth, played by CTH’s Artistic Director Ty, goes home to his wife. Roslyn Ruff, as Lady Macbeth, conjures up a devious plot to project her husbands’ title to the skies. Through many twists and turns, the prophecy comes true. The Macbeths both slowly turn towards madness.
The cast, once again, brought the play to life. The Wierd Sisters were eerie and ethereal; Jason Delane’s, as Macduff, despair at hearing of the slaughter of his family was all too real. The Porter, played by Anthony Vaughn, brought comic relief (and Trump and Cosby impressions) during a dark time.
The play runs through July 31st, Tuesdays through Sundays at 8pm, Fridays at 8:30pm at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park.Visit The Classical Theatre of Harlem‘s website for more details.