There is something about going to see a Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) Shakespeare production that is like no other experience you’ll ever have. Since 1999, Ty Jones’s CTH has taken Shakespeare’s work, brought it into the modern day, and let you know this will be a Black-accentuated, unique theatrical experience filled with humor, unconventional props, high tech, amusing costumes, and very talented cast members who bring the energy, the chemistry, and the attitude. 

This is currently happening at the NYU Skirball Theatre (La Guardia Place and W. 4th Street in Manhattan), where “Twelfth Night” recently opened and will play only through February 19. 

Before the production begins, a great deal of music—mainly Nigerian pop music—plays in the theater, which sets a mood. As you sit waiting for the production to begin, you get the vibe that this will not be your usual Shakespearean fare.

When the production begins, you meet Orsino, who is the Duke of Illyria, declaring his love for Olivia, a young wealthy countess. You also meet Viola, who has survived her ship’s capsizing and who, on her arrival in Illyria, makes plans to disguise herself as a man called Cesario to get close to Duke Orsino. Meeting Olivia, we find that she has no attraction to Orsino but finds herself attracted to another. 

Some mistaken identity and a lot of chaos occurs, where things are not what they seem. A great deal goes on with this story, and while many people probably know the tale, I won’t share more about the storyline for those who don’t. There is something marvelous in the discovery of this work, especially when it is done CTH style.

Some of the characters include Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch; Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a suitor he has brought to her; her servant Maria; her Fool Feste; and her steward Malvolio and the duke’s servant Valentine. This production has hip-hop moves, marvelous singing, and some bring-the-funk choreography. It is a treat not to be missed. 

The direction by Carl Cofield is ingenious. The cast has some of the most versatile, talented company you will be find on a stage, including Kara Young, who plays the part of Viola with such passion, humor, and grace. Young always manages to embody her characters and seamlessly show every emotion they are experiencing. She always does this with an infectious energy and joy. 

William DeMeritt is delightful as Orsino; he brings a blind love and determination to his character. Christina Sajous is sexy, funny, and delightful as Olivia. 

Shakespeare makes use of comic relief throughout this production, and those characters definitely seem to be having a good time on the stage as they playfully and skillfully give voice to Shakespeare’s words. Chivas Michael and Carson Elrod as Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are hilarious every time they take the stage. Israel Erron Ford, as Feste, not only can sing his butt off, but glides into scenes with great flair. Cassandra Lopez as Maria is full of wonderful energy and plays her character well. Allen Gilmore is quite captivating as Malvolio. 

Every featured cast member on that stage contributes to the incredibly smooth storyline: J’Laney Allen, Denzel Fields, Charles Bernard Murray, Donathan Walters, and Othello Pratt, Jr. 

The versatile ensemble consists of Kat Files, Dennzle Green, Alisa Gregory, Brynle Helmich, Madelyn LaLonde, Anthony Lalor, and Collin McConnell. 

The creative team truly shines as well and includes scenic designer Riv Rakkulchon; costume designer Mika Eubanks; lighting designer Alan C. Edwards; composer and sound designer Frederick Kennedy; projection designer Brittany Bland and hair and makeup designer Earon Nealey.

Hurry and make plans to see this while you have the chance. And please, anytime you hear CTH is doing a production, reserve your spot—you will never be disappointed; only entertained and inspired.For more info, visit and

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