A gay recasting of “Romeo and Juliet,” Alan Brown’s “Private Romeo” finds a group of cadets left behind at their military academy for four days rehearsing Shakespeare’s tragedy in and out of class, the play’s action informing all their waking moments. Sticking closely to the written text (with basketballs and barbells supplying incidental props) and wisely not attempting to reimagine the specific circumstances that separate the lovers, a dynamite ensemble cast of young actors invests the Bard’s poetry with energetic immediacy. Opening Feb. 10 at Gotham’s Cinema Village, this vibrant pic has an appeal that easily extends beyond its target aud.
Seth Numrich’s confused Romeo, dumbstruck by his sudden-blooming passion for Matt Doyle’s Juliet, wanders around trying to cope with his out-of-control obsession (the two thesps are vets of Broadway’s “War Horse”). Hale Appelman’s antic, hotheaded Mercutio makes glorious sense as an adolescent whose aggression never found a satisfying outlet. Derek McKane’s handheld camera, at one with the ricocheting emotions, wades into the fast-break urgency of fistfights (not swordfights) and seeks out players in darkened classroom corners as they pace, declaim or fret over their tragic situations.