Rahway, NJ- The first three weekends in March bring William Shakespeare’s famous classic Romeo and Juliet to the Union County Performing Arts Center’s Hamilton Stage. However, the show may be a little different than audiences remember. The setting will be 1995 New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Montagues and Capulets will be transformed into the Bacchus and Comus Krewes of Mardi Gras.

The Mistick Krewe of Comus was first formed in 1857, and it is considered the first New Orleans krewe that originated the modern day definition. Krewes are organizations, with varying qualifications for membership, that create parade floats, elaborate costumes and high-class events for Mardi Gras. The Krewe of Comus takes its name from the Greek god of festivity and chaos, and its primary purpose at its inception was to transform very violent and unruly Mardi Gras celebrations into something more sophisticated and revered. From that time onward, countless other krewes were created, including the Bacchus Krewe. The Bacchus Krewe was formed over a century after the Comus Krewe in 1968, and its primary objective was to once again shake up Mardi Gras celebrations by breaking with tradition. Their almost irreverent choice of Greek god, Bacchus, god of wine, reflected this purpose; Bacchus is the father of Comus. The Bacchus Krewe proceeded to hold Sunday night parades, ask celebrities to act as the “king” in the parades and have that king throw out his own favors without the aid of attendants. In addition, their floats were a cut above in terms of size and elaborate dressings. The Bacchus defied the old ways in favor of the new. It’s these two very different, opposing krewes, one representing tradition, the other representing change, that will be portrayed in the classic roles of both Romeo’s and Juliet’s famous families. The year of 1995 takes on a particular significance, in that in 1991, the Mistick Krewe of Comus stopped parading altogether. When pressed to disclose the list of their members in favor of preventing discrimination, the old krewe refused due to their oaths to secrecy.

Romeo and Juliet is the tale of two lovers, in love at first sight, forbidden to marry by their two feuding families (the Montagues and Capulets, respectively). Juliet must become betrothed to a man she does not love, while Romeo is forced into a fight that ultimately banishes him from his home and his beloved. Among this conflict, Romeo and Juliet enlist the help of Friar Laurence to marry them in secret. Friar Laurence agrees and comes up with a dangerous plan to get them out of their two predicaments. Will the two lovers be united for eternity, or will tragedy render this youthful love unfulfilled?

The complete list of showings for Romeo and Juliet are as follows: March 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 8 PM, and March 5, 12 and 19 at 2 PM. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at ucpac.org, over the phone by calling (732) 499-8226 or in person at the box office. A $10 student/senior price is available by phone or in person only. Box office hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 5 PM, with extended hours on Thursdays, 11 AM to 8 PM. The Union County Performing Arts Center’s Hamilton Stage is located in downtown Rahway at 360 Hamilton Street and is easily accessible to major roads and public transportation.