'Romeo and Juliet'

"Romeo and Juliet," William Shakespeare's tragedy of two lovers who unite their warring families, gets a stunning, action-packed staging at Southern Oregon University's Center Square Theatre.

Director Stephany Smith-Pearson has chosen to set the story in the Middle East amidst the chaos of modern-day civil wars. Verona's official government struggles to keep order between two clans, Capulet and Montague, involved in an ancient blood feud.

Angry young men wield knives in suddenly erupting street brawls that transform lusty wordplay into slaughter. Above the fray, the Capulet family throws a party to arrange their daughter Juliet's (Ashley Scallon) marriage. Lovesick Romeo Montague (Garrett Liggett) invades the revels, spies Juliet, and the romance begins.

Hardy Pinnell plays a wild and witty Mercutio who leads his peers through a series of saucy antics until he is struck down by fiery sharp-tongued Tybalt (Samuel Dinkowitz) who then meets his own demise. As matriarch of her powerful family, Lady Capulet, played stylishly by Kirsten Acheson, urges vengeance. Passions prevail as Capulet (Nick Boyd) brutally compels Juliet to marry the bridegroom he has chosen for his daughter, the super-suave Paris (Lowell Weller), Romeo's accidental adversary, Scallon gives us a Juliet who has the look of a pampered heiress but then reveals her heartbreaking emotion as the tragedy deepens. There is lovely chemistry between Juliet and her Romeo. Jimmy Garcia delivers strong narration as Friar Laurence, Juliet's spiritual advisor.Ben Brown's lighting design enhances the seamless movement of actors and sets through intimate and extravagant scenes. Hannah Wold's costumes, in intense colors and flashy fabrics, enrich the spectacle on the elegant Moorish set designed by Sean O'Skea.

Joe Perez and Jake Phelps-Ransom provide Middle Eastern percussion which heightens the rhythms of Shakespeare's poetic language delivered by the skilled and animated cast.

The swordplay (coached by Chris Duval and Kristen Mun) is breathtaking; and Jim Giancarlo's choreography provides delight and surprise throughout the play.

"Romeo and Juliet" runs through June — in the Center Stage Theatre at Southern Oregon University. For tickets and information, call: 552-6348.

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